French President Francois Hollande appealed on Friday for European countries to quickly provide enough troops for the delayed peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic.
"Five hundred personnel are needed. There are currently only 375, so more effort must be made," Hollande told a press conference in Brussels after an EU summit largely devoted to the Ukraine crisis. European countries have so far been reluctant to mobilise forces or logistics for the EUFOR-CAR mission, which was due to deploy this week to bolster French and African forces in conflict-ravaged Central Africa.
"I insisted to the heads of government that had already made gestures or promises that we have adequate forces by Monday," Hollande said. It`s not "troops that are needed, but personnel that can deploy to assist with transport of African troops, for logistics and for health work."
He said achieving the numbers was vital to "Europe`s credibility". Despite his efforts, no countries came forward with fresh commitments on Friday. So far, the mission is largely dependent on the contribution of soldiers from Georgia, which is not a member of the European Union.
Many eastern European countries which had initially been keen to contribute have had second thoughts since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, which they fear may have implications in their own territories, a European official said.
Meanwhile, in CAR, where brutal violence between Muslims and Christians broke out after a military coup last year, there were faint signs of reconciliation on Friday. The mostly Christian anti-balaka militia group -- which has killed hundreds of Muslims and displaced tens of thousands in recent weeks -- said it was ready to give up arms following a meeting with the government.
"Those who carry out acts of violence are not real anti-balaka. We are determined to dispose of our weapons and to enter into a reconciliation with the Muslims," said Emotion Brice Namsio, who presented himself as a coordinator for the group. "We have chosen to liberate the Central African people and we believe that our objective has been achieved. Therefore, we should not continue to perpetuate actions that are contrary to our goal," he said. It remains to be seen whether such messages will filter down to the nebulous militias on the ground.
Speaking alongside Namsio after their meeting, Minister of Communication Antoinette Montaigne Moussa said the government welcomed the commitment to lay down arms.
"I hope that what you have said today will not be immediately contradicted by acts of violence," she added. CAR President Catherine Samba Panza is due to visit Brussels before the next EU-Africa summit on April 2-3.