Army training for ex-Bozize fighters

The Central African Republic (CAR) government has established two military training centres for former fighters loyal to current leader Francois Bozize, state-owned Radio Centrafrique reported on Wednesday. They will be integrated into the CAR army upon completion of the training.

The radio reported that the army chief of staff, Gen Antoine Gambi, visited one of the centres at Berengo, 80 km south of the capital, Bangui, where 100 former fighters have been receiving military training for two weeks. The other centre is in a Bangui suburb.

Bozize fought the government between October 2002 and March 2003, using the fighters, many of whom had little or no military training. The war ended when he seized power from President Ange-Felix Patasse on 15 March.

However, since taking power, insecurity has persisted across the country, most of it blamed on Bozize's former fighters, also known as "Liberators" or "Patriots".

Restructuring the army is one of the transitional government's top priorities. In a memorandum to a visiting UN mission on 21 June, the government requested 3.5 billion francs CFA (US $6.4 million) to restore security countrywide. It said it would use 50 million francs ($91,570) on military training.

The government also said that it would demobilise 5,700 former fighters, including 1,200 patriots; 2,500 militiamen loyal Patasse; 1,000 members of Patasse’s protection force and 1,000 former soldiers returning from exile.

Majority of recently appointed military and administrative officials have not reported to their work stations, and armed men, believed to be deserting patriots, have been reported to be terrorising people in the north and central parts of the country. This has prevented those who had been displaced by the war from returning to their homes, and has hindered humanitarian operations. Some northern zones remain inaccessible to humanitarian workers.

A 380-strong peacekeeping force from the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States, currently in the CAR, has been mandated to secure the north and major towns countrywide as well as to disarm bearers of illegal arms.