NAIROBI, 20 January (IRIN) - A contingent
of 150 soldiers from the Republic of Congo (ROC) has been sent in support
of an international peacekeeping force of the Economic and Monetary Community
of Central African States (known by its French acronym CEMAC) in the Central
African Republic (CAR), the government in Brazzaville announced on Saturday.
The force was expected to transit through Libreville, capital of Gabon, en route to CAR, to be provided with logistical support equipment for the mission. They will join a 231-troop-strong contingent from Gabon that has been deployed in the CAR since early December 2002.
The force - created on 2 October at a regional summit in Libreville - is to comprise troops from Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, and Mali, which is not a member of the regional community. The force will replace Libyan troops who have been stationed in Bangui since the failed 28 May 2001 coup led by former President Andre Kolingba.
The mandate of the CEMAC force - whose authorised strength was 350-men, headed by Gen Barthelemy Ratanga of Gabon - is to protect Patasse, reform the CAR army, and monitor the situation along the CAR border with Chad.
Speaking over state-owned Radio Centrafrique on 31 December 2002, Patasse, whose current administration is under attack from supporters of former CAR army chief of staff Francois Bozize, made an "urgent and formal appeal to France" for military support alongside the CAR army and the CEMAC force in order to help the nation recover its territorial integrity.
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