- At last, France becomes concerned about the rebel infiltration in its former colony of the Central Africa Republic, the French Foreign Ministry has confirmed. After more than a week of appeal by President François Bozizé, France is now ready to aid the country's army with logistics and aerial reconnaissance so as to flush out rebels in its northeast.
France already has about 200 soldiers in the Central African Republic, who are there under the framework of providing military assistance to the country with only 5,000 soldiers.
"Our help will consist essentially of logistic support and providing intelligence thanks to aerial reconnaissance," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said. "We are concerned about the development of the situation in the northeast of the Central African Republic, which we are monitoring with the greatest attention," he added.
Mr Mattei said Paris had been in close contact with regional organisations, particularly the Economic Community of Central African States, which has peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic.
Rebels loyal to the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) that seized the towns of Birao and Ouddda Djallé in the north of the Central African Republic are now said to be advancing towards the central mining town of Bria, some 600 kilometres northeast of the capital Bangui.
UDF rebels claimed to have met no resistance from the Central African Republic's armed forces when advancing towards Bria.
Today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement, expressing deep concern about security conditions in the north-eastern Central African Republic's border with Sudan's Darfur region, where the rebel movement is said to have had its origins.
While calling for the immediate end to the rebel occupation of Birao to allow humanitarian and security provided to civilians in the town, Mr Annan raised alarmed about rebel attacks in the country. UN concerns were growing as reports this week indicated that large numbers of civilians were fleeing from the fighting in the north-eastern part of the country.
Independent sources in the region say the unrest in the north since late October has displaced at least 10,000 civilians. "The humanitarian situation is more fragile than ever," Toby Lanzer, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in the country, said on Monday. "Increasing violence is not what the people of this country need."
Mr Annan, meanwhile, stressed the urgent need to find a comprehensive solution to the security problems along the troubled borders of Chad, the Central African Republic and Sudan. According to the UN, these armed rebellions are strongly interrelated.
The UDF rebels however hold the conflict is national and based on ethnic division. UDF leader Michel Detodia claims President Bozizé has ruled on an ethnic basis since staging a coup against President Angé-Félix Patassé in March 2003. "Many people from other ethnic groups and different political parties are ostracised and banned from participating in the management of the country," he said, adding that the rebels had offered entering into power-sharing negotiations with Mr Bozizé.
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