The European Union extended its military training mission in the Central African Republic for two more years, it announced Monday, pledging €25 million to help reform the country’s defense 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.
The E.U. 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 CAR 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.
Within months, Seleka was officially disbanded, but many fighters refused to disarm, becoming known as ex-Seleka. Many others joined the mainly Christian anti-balaka militia to fight the Seleka, leading to a spiral of violence between groups along both religious and ethnic lines in which thousands died.
By the end of 2014, the country was de facto partitioned – anti-Balaka in the southwest and ex-Seleka in the northeast.
France intervened militarily to help force out the Seleka before handing on to a U.N. 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 United Nations.
In April, President Faustin Archange Touadera said he wants to “accelerate” the disarmament of members of armed groups in Central African Republic, calling for more peacekeepers to be deployed, and for the U.N.’s Minusca mission to transition from peacekeeping to peace enforcement.
With reporting from AFP