PARIS (Reuters) – France will end a three-year military peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic in October, François Hollande has said, although security remains volatile.
The operation was launched in December 2013 to try to end a cycle of tit for tat killing that began when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled the then-president, prompting reprisals by Christian anti-Balaka militias.
The defence ministry says Operation Sangaris currently commands around 350 troops in CAR, down from a peak of 2,000, and supports a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.
Hollande announced the operation’s end date late on Wednesday. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had announced in January the operation would end this year.
Clashes have continued since President Faustin-Archange Touadéra took power in March in an election intended to draw a line under intercommunal and interreligious violence.
“Next October Jean-Yves Le Drian … will go to Central African Republic to officially announce the end of operation Sangaris,” said Hollande in a speech in Paris.
“I want to state clearly that deciding to intervene is a great responsibility, but knowing when to end an operation is also a major concern,” the president added.
“You can’t do it too fast, too early, or too late,” he said.
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Tim Cocks and Raissa Kasolowsky)