Hollande Urges Creation of African Rapid Reaction Force

Africa must set up a rapid reaction force to police its own security, French President François Hollande told a summit of African leaders in Paris on Friday. France is ready to train 20,000 soldiers a year if the project goes ahead, he said, as French troops began there intervention in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Although Saturday's session of the summit was supposed to be devoted to the economy and climate change, another session on security was slotted in with participants claiming that it was a precondition for develoment.

"Today it is the Africans' responsibility to take control of their security," Hollande said on Friday. "But France is ready to offer its cooperation, ready to train, equipe and give intelligence to African armies."

Hollande threw France's weight behind the African rapid reaction force, a proposal of the African Union and has been championed by its chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and promised that France would train 20,000 soldiers a year "if you decide to do it".

The force should be "effectively operational" in 2015 and have a mobile chief of staff, according to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

France has also promised to ask a European Union summit on 19-20 December to release 50 million euros for the Misca African force in CAR.

Also at the summit:

Hollande proposed a "Franco-African foundation for growth" to revive flagging trade ties;

A climate conference in Paris in 2015 should establish an alliance between "the most vulnerable countries", notably African, and "the most progressive, that is Europe", according to French Development Minister Pascal Canfin;

A meeting on the fringes of first ladies of 20 countries urged an end to rape as a "weapon of war".

Hollande called an informal mini-summit on Saturday evening to discuss the CAR with interim Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, heads of state of neighbouring countries, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and leaders of the African Union and the European Union.

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