France ships 1,400 assault rifles to Central Africa army
France on 11 December handed over 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and three amphibious vehicles to the Central African Republic to shore up its beleaguered armed forces.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly oversaw the handover at a ceremony at M'Polo military base in the capital Bangui.
The military aid was announced in Paris in November, along with €24 million ($27.4 million) in civilian assistance.
With the armed forces hampered by poor training and lack of equipment, the UN-backed central government controls only a fraction of the country's territory.
In 2013, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo and it remains in place today.
Exemptions are made for weapons shipments for the security forces that gain pre-approval from a UN sanctions committee.
The panel is tasked with ensuring that imported weapons do not end up in the hands of the militias in the corruption-prone country.
The panel gave the green light last year for Russia to supply 1,700 AK-47s to the national forces in January, and gave its approval again to the French shipments.
‘From France's point of view, there is in principle no obstacle to ending the embargo’ permanently, Parly said on 11 December.
She stressed: ‘What is important is that these weapons, after they are delivered to the Central African armed forces, can be identified, stored and traced.’
The CAR has an army of just 7,000 men in a population of 4.5 million. They are facing militia groups estimated to be at least similar in numbers.
France previously sent 2,000 troops to quell the Seleka rebels, winding down the operation in 2016 after President Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected.
It has around 200 troops in the CAR today, working in support of the armed forces and the UN peacekeeping mission here.
The 1,400 guns handed over by France are a gift, French officials said.
They were seized aboard a dhow off Somalia in 2016 that was intercepted for breaching an arms embargo with Yemen, they said.
The European Union has a military training mission in the CAR that involves 170 people. In July, it pledged 25 million euros to extend the mission until September 2020.
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