The Central African Republic is getting a New Year's present of sorts: trained soldiers, the first in what the government hopes will be a rebuilt national army.
It's only 170 men, a small fraction of the number needed to stabilize the crisis-wracked CAR; but, authorities were pleased with what they saw last week, when the troops, after 14 weeks of training from a European Union mission, showed off a hostage rescue simulation, rope climbing and other skills for senior military leaders at a military camp in Bangui.
“Today, I’m satisfied,” said Joseph Yakete, Central African Republic’s minister of defense. “The people of the Central African Republic have seen today the fruit of the work that has been done.”
A divided nation
The CAR has not had a national army since 2013, when rebels overthrew the president and the country descended into widespread violence, much of it between Muslims and Christian militias. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes, with many Muslims fleeing the country.
The European Union Council decided in April 2016 to work to “reform” the CAR's security forces “in order to stabilize the situation in support of the political process."
The 170 troops — who will make up the first company of the CAR's 3rd Infantry Battalion — were the first to complete the EU Training Mission's course. The young men were selected to serve in the army because of their physical health, intellectual capacity and age, according to the CAR's military chief of staff, Brigadier General Cema Ludovic Ngaifei.
European soldiers instructed the trainees in physical fitness, communications, close quarters combat, topography, first aid, weapons training, and other skills necessary for combat.