“This morning the enemies of Central African Republic wanted to destabilize the country but they have failed,” Djotodia announced in a speech broadcast in the Sango language on state radio.
France already has hundreds of soldiers in Bangui, and an armored personnel carrier and other military vehicles patrolled the streets. The roads were otherwise bare except for the brightly painted pickup trucks driven by the ex-rebels who run the government.
The resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council on Thursday allows France to send hundreds more troops for a temporary period. Speaking from the Elysee Palace in Paris, Hollande said the 600 troops already in the country would be doubled “within a few days, even a few hours” to around 1,200.
Central African Republic, a desperately poor country in the heart of Africa where the life expectancy is a mere 48 years, has been roiled by rebellions and coups for decades. The president ousted in March had himself ascended to power by force a decade earlier.
Djotodia, the country’s current ruler, who is Muslim, managed to unify several rebel groups in the country’s mostly Muslim north, where resentment of the federal government and a sense of disenfranchisement has been rife for years. Once those rebels — known as Seleka, the local word for coalition — were unleashed upon the capital, though, he wielded very little control over the mélange of bush fighters, child soldiers and foreign mercenaries he had recruited along the way.
Before long, human rights groups were documenting cases of Seleka rebels going door to door with machetes, bludgeoning their victims and burning down scores of homes.
In another sign of the growing melee, Prime Minister Nicholas Tiangaye confirmed his house had been looted, describing the attackers as a group of Seleka who arrived in three four-wheel-drive pickup trucks.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned the “shocking and horrific atrocities against civilians” and said the U.S. was providing $40 million in assistance to the African Union mission.