Portuguese peacekeepers battle militants in the Central African Republic | January 10th 2019

Minusca, the U.N. peacekeeping force in the country, sent peace keepers to the site of the clashes, spokesperson Vladimir Monteiro said. Its troops there had come under fire a day earlier, he added.

On Wednesday, the General Staff of the Portuguese Armed Forces said that paratroopers had deployed to Bambari, using its General Dynamics Pandur II wheeled armored vehicles for the first time in Africa.

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On Thursday, the Portuguese “blue helmets spent five hours in direct combat” with UPC militants “with the objective of protecting civilians and restoring peace, interposing itself between the opposition group and the defenseless civilian population,” the General Staff said.

The UPC had used heavy weapons during the attack, putting civilians in the crossfire during confrontations with the Central African Armed Forces (FACa), it said, adding that all the paratroopers were safe.

Portugal has contributed peace-keepers to Minusca since the beginning of 2017. A total of 180 personnel, mainly paratroopers, are deployed, with a special company operating from the capital Bangui as a Rapid Reaction Force.

Portugal contributes a further 50 personnel to the European Union Training Mission in CAR (EUTM-RCA), and Portugal’s Major General Hermínio Maio has since January 2018 served as Mission Force Commander in theater. He leads a total of 187 personnel from Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Italy, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Sweden. On January 8, personnel from Brazil joined the mission.

The E.U. mission has trained more than 3,000 personnel to serve in FACa, and last July, the bloc extended EUTM-RCA until 2020, pledging €25 million ($29 million) to help reform the country’s defense sector. The scope of the mission was also modified to give strategic advice to the president’s cabinet, interior ministry and police, as well as the military.