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France delivers assault rifles to help Central African Republic army

media French defence minister Florence Parly speaking at the 5th African peace and security forum in Dakar, November 2018 AFP/Seyllou

French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Tuesday oversaw the handover of 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and three amphibious vehicles, at a ceremony at M'Polo military base in the capital Bangui.

The military aid was announced in Paris in November, along with 24 million euros in civilian assistance.

The shipment was able to go ahead despite a 2013 arms embargo because it gained pre-approval from a UN sanctions committee.

France must now ensure that the imported weapons do not end up in the hands of the militias which are estimated at some 7,000 soldiers, roughly the same amount as the country's armed forces.

The CAR has struggled to recover from a civil war that erupted in 2013 when President Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

France, the former colonial power, sent 2,000 troops to quell the Seleka rebels, winding down the operation in 2016 after President Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected.

Since the beginning of the conflict, thousands of people have died, 700,000 have been internally displaced and another 570,000 have fled abroad.

The UN-backed central government controls only a fraction of the country's territory, supported by some 200 French troops and the UN peacekeeping mission.

France also provides 130 million euros annually in development aid for the country.

(with AFP)

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