BANGUI, Central African Republic (AFP) ― The leader of the strife-torn Central African Republic asked French troops Monday to stay until polls due in early 2015, as unabated sectarian violence wrecked Paris’s hope of a quick exit.
Interim President Catherine Samba Panza’s appeal to the former colonial power came three days after France’s decision to boost its contingent to 2,000 and on the eve of a review of the CAR’s deadly sectarian conflict by the U.N. Security Council.
“The interim president told us that they should stay until the elections, that is to stay until early 2015,” French MP Elisabeth Guigou said in the capital Bangui.
When France launched operation Sangaris in December to prevent mass sectarian killing, President Francois Hollande envisioned a short deployment.
On Saturday however, with a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslims in full swing, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian admitted that the French operation could last “longer than planned.”
The French parliament is due to vote on Feb. 25 on whether the 2,000 troops deployed in Central Africa can stay longer than their initial mandate, which expires in April.
The right-wing opposition has asked for clarity on the operation’s goals but stopped short of calling for an early withdrawal.
“France cannot handle everything on its own,” Guigou, a Hollande ally who chairs the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said after her meeting with Samba Panza.