Cameroon is sending hundreds of troops and police to the Central African Republic to protect civilians and build peace ahead of December elections.
The troops, under the U.N.’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA), finished training this week in the border village of Motcheboum.
Cameroon’s defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo, says the troops would foster peace by protecting civilians, election staff, their materials, international observers and refugees returning to the C.A.R.
Years of political instability and fighting between armed groups have displaced nearly a quarter of the Central African Republic’s people.
The U.N. has asked Cameroon’s troops to help the C.A.R. address its security and sociopolitical turmoil by enabling citizens to rebuild destroyed institutions.
Assomo says Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, has made available logistical support for the blue beret battalions and two trained police units, which will serve for one year within MINUSCA.
Since 2014, there have been more than 11,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the C.A.R. — over 1,000 of them from Cameroon.
While U.N.-led troops have helped establish a degree of stability, armed groups control much of the country and continue to acquire weapons, despite an arms embargo.
Albert Nseke, a conflict resolution specialist at the University of Bangui, said the rebel groups intend to disrupt the December elections in order to maintain their control of positions within the Central African Republic.
The C.A.R.’s former president, Francois Bozize, who last year returned from exile in Uganda, challenged President Faustin-Archange Touadera in July for the top office.
Bozize took power in a 2003 coup, only to be overthrown in 2013 by Seleka rebels.
French troops helped to defeat the rebels and ushered in the Central African Republic’s last elections in 2016.
But the U.N. says at least a dozen armed groups continue to fight over territory and resources throughout the country.