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EU eyes military mission in C. Africa to deter massacres
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Jan 08, 2014

Mozambican workers strike, claim abuse by Chinese employers
Maputo (AFP) Jan 08, 2014 - More than 200 Mozambican construction workers have downed tools in protest at alleged beatings by their Chinese employers and poor working conditions, some of the strikers said Wednesday.

The 230 workers, who are employed by a Chinese state-owned construction company to build a three-kilometre (two-mile) bridge and a 74-kilometre ring road in the Mozambican capital Maputo, have been on strike since Saturday.

They also claim that an end of year bonus has not been paid.

"These Chinese have no respect for the people. They insult us, beat and send us away when they want and for no reason," said Antonio Mavila, a worker who claims to have suffered repeated assault.

"We cannot continue to work without being paid and without being respected as human beings," another worker John Matusse told AFP.

Their employer, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

France to cut troops in Mali, says mission accomplished
Creil, France (AFP) Jan 08, 2014 - France will cut its troops in Mali to 1,600 by the middle of next month from the current level of 2,500, President Francois Hollande said Wednesday.

Speaking at an airbase in Creil in northern France, Hollande said the "situation is well under control" in Mali, where the "key objectives of the mission have been accomplished."

"The troop size will be reduced from about 2,500 at present to 1,600 and then to 1,000 which is the number necessary to fight any threat that might resurface as these terrorist groups are still present in northern Mali," the president said.

France launched the military Operation Serval in its former colony on January 11, 2013 to repel an Islamist advance following a coup.

The intervention has been widely hailed as a success internationally for stopping Al-Qaeda-linked militants and Tuareg rebels from descending south of the sprawling country and advancing on the capital Bamako.

EU nations are considering a joint military operation in Central Africa amid looming fears of civilian massacres, but there may be little appetite for boots on the ground, experts said Wednesday.

Ambassadors to the European Union will be asked Friday whether or not to approve the rapid deployment of a European force of several hundred troops to help African and French peacekeepers already on the ground to restore security, said an EU official speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The question (to ambassadors) will be: 'Do you think the situation in the Central African Republic merits European involvement?'

"If they agree, detailed options will be put on the table Monday or Tuesday," the official said.

A final decision would be taken by the bloc's 28 foreign ministers at talks in Brussels on January 20.

As sectarian violence worsens between Christian and Muslims in the impoverished state, "EU states don't want to stand accused of standing by and passively watching. Nobody wants a new Rwanda," an EU diplomat said.

"But on the other hand there's little interest in sending troops to this lost corner of the world."

Under a UN mandate, 1,600 French and 4,000 African peacekeepers have deployed in the Central African Republic in recent weeks to end violence between Christian militias and ex-rebels who installed the country's first Muslim leader in a coup in March.

More than 1,000 people are believed to have died last month alone with almost one million people driven from their homes, including half of the residents of the capital, Bangui.

'1,000' troops needed

According to an EU proposal seen by AFP, the "pressing need" to restore security is to "avoid CAR sliding towards complete state failure on the previous Somalia model, and large scale massacres against the civilian population".

"Restoration of security can only be achieved through increasing the military presence on the ground," the document states.

It suggests dispatching "rapidly" a force that one diplomatic source could number around 1,000.

With the CAR's institutions in shambles, the force could take on policing duties in the capital while protecting refugees and aid workers, and possibly safeguarding the airport.

Another option would be to deploy in the west to secure the road to Cameroon.

In either case, the EU proposal suggests a battalion-sized force of 800 to 1,200 troops, comprising fire support, intelligence, medical assets and transport including helicopters.

But discussion over the plan "is expected to be difficult. Most European nations do not see CAR as a priority," said a diplomat.

"The majority of EU nations feel they have no direct interest in taking action," said analyst Bruno Tertrais of France's Foundation for Strategic Research.

France's recent willingness to step in -- under UN mandate -- in its former colonies, such as in Mali, "has a perverse effect of validating the idea that whatever happens, France will always be there," he added.

At an EU summit last month. French President Francois Hollande said Paris was "not asking for troops for military action.

"What we need, is a presence at specific points, such as the airport," he said. "What I would like to see, politically, is a European presence," he said.

"That it not be said that 'France is alone.'"

For the time being, Belgium, Britain, Germany and Poland have offered logistical backup, mainly for transport of troops and equipment.

Belgium has said it could be ready to send troops but only on condition of the launch of an EU force.


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A year after Mali action, France remains 'Africa's gendarme'
Dakar (AFP) Jan 08, 2014
A year after dispatching warplanes and troops to repel an Islamist incursion in Mali, France is fighting in another of its former colonies, demonstrating it is destined to play reluctant "gendarme" in Africa, say analysts. With the Mali intervention deemed a success by the international community, France is withdrawing most of its soldiers but has launched another operation in the Central Af ... read more

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