Rwanda Bolsters Force in CAR as Rebels ‘held back’

RWANDA has deployed what it called a “protection force” to the Central African Republic after its peacekeepers there were attacked by rebels advancing to the capital, Bangui.

The Rwandan and CAR governments have accused ex-President François Bozizé of backing the rebels and plotting a coup, which he has denied.

UN peacekeepers have said the rebel advance has been halted.

Mr Bozizé has been barred from a presidential election due on Sunday.

Russia has also sent “several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” to the country to support the government, the AFP news agency quotes a CAR government spokesman as saying.

The spokesman, Ange Maxime Kazagui, said the Russian forces were invited as part of bilateral agreements, AFP reports.

The Russian government has not confirmed these reports but, according to AFP, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday that Russia considered the situation in CAR “a matter of serious concern”.

Mr Kazagui also said Rwanda had sent several hundred men who are on the ground and have started fighting.

The number of additional Rwandan soldiers deployed has not been given but the defence ministry said the operation was done “under existing bilateral agreements” with CAR.

The newly deployed forces will have “different rules of engagement which will enable them to protect our forces from being attacked, and protect civilians,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Monday.

At least 750 Rwandan soldiers and police officers have been operating under the UN peace-keeping force Minusca.