EU extends military training in Central Africa

The European Union extended its military training mission in the Central African Republic for two more years, it announced on Monday, pledging 25 million euros to help reform the country's defence sector.

The scope of the mission, known as the EUTM RCA, has also been modified to give strategic advice to the president's cabinet, interior ministry and police, as well as the military.

The mission, which originally launched in July 2016 and is based in the capital Bangui, involves around 170 people and will now continue until September 19, 2020.

"The mission contributes to security sector reform in the country," a European Council statement said.

"It works towards modernised, effective, inclusive and democratically accountable Central African Armed Forces (FACA)," it added.

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The EU Council says the mission had already advised, trained and educated more than 3 000 soldiers in the FACA, including giving strategic advice and operational training.

One of Africa's poorest countries, the Central African Republic descended into violence in 2013 following the ouster of the majority-Christian country's president, Francois Bozize, by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

In response, Christians, who account for about 80% of the population, organised vigilante units dubbed "anti-balaka".

France intervened militarily to help force out the Seleka before handing on to a UN peacekeeping mission.

However, the central government remains very weak, and violence has led to thousands of deaths. Nearly 700 000 people are displaced, 570 000 are refugees abroad and 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

An African Union peace process, launched in July 2017, has largely failed to stem the violence.