The end of operation Sangaris was confirmed yesterday, 30 March, by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a speech to French troops in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR). “It is with the satisfaction of a job well done that I can confirm that Sangaris will be wound down before the end of 2016 ,” he told them.
He explained that “in the space of two years and with a reduced, but perfectly adapted, force, the French Army met all the objectives it had been set.“
It is the MINUSCA and the future European Training Mission in the CAR (EUTM CAR) that will inherit “a stabilised situation and, in particular, a successful political transition,” he said, adding that if “one must react quickly in setting up an external operation one must also know when to shut an external operation down.“
French forces will not be withdrawn immediately but progressively and in collaboration with the MINUSCA and EUTM CAR, and as the Central African army gets up to speed, and in coordination with newly invested President Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
French soldiers will nevertheless remain in the CAR “but under a new form that we are currently elaborating,” the minister explained. “For the military that will entail a greater involvement with MINUSCA, to guarantee its robustness, but also a participation in the future EUTM CAR that will replace the EU Military Advisory Mission CAR [EUMAM CAR],” he added.
The minister stressed that “it is not yet all over because we must now manage our disengagement.” Whilst recognising that this can be “a delicate, even critical, phase of the manoeuvre,” Le Drian acknowledged that the military had “already begun to plan for this operation with the same professionalism” that had characterised them throughout their mandate.
Sangaris was launched in December 2013 after President François Bozizé was overthrown by Séléka rebels and had mobilised up to 2,500 soldiers at the height of tension in the country.