PARIS: Chad said on Thursday it would withdraw its troops from an African Union peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, a setback to efforts to build a large international force to stem religious conflict in the impoverished country.
Chadian soldiers have been at the heart of African efforts to stabilize Central African Republic (CAR) but its forces have been criticized for siding with the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels whose seizure of power last year sparked tit-for-tat violence with Christian militia.
“Despite the sacrifices we have made, Chad and Chadians have been targeted in a gratuitous and malicious campaign that blamed them for all the suffering in CAR,” Chad’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the planned withdrawal.
The statement said Chadian troops would remain in place while the practicalities of the withdrawal are confirmed. Chad has contributed roughly 850 troops to the 6,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission.
The AU force together with some 2,000 French troops is trying to restore peace to Central African Republic. Seleka seized power in March 2013 but was forced to step aside in January after failing to stem violence that UN experts have warned pushed the country close to genocide.
At its peak, around 1 million people were displaced by the violence. At least 2,000 people have been killed since December alone.