|French troops are to begin disarming rebel fighters across the Central African Republic, as thousands of foreign soldiers pour into the country in an effort to stop recent violence.
The plan to seize weaponry comes after the country’s president told Al Jazeera that he was not in complete control of his country.
Michel Djotodia said he could not stop armed groups operating, as a wave of killings left hundreds dead in just a few days.
“It is too much to say I have no control. I control my men. The men I can’t control are not my men,” said Djotodia, who came to power after a mainly Muslim armed group now known as Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize earlier this year.
The former rebels who control the country were on Sunday patrolling neighbourhoods across the capital, Bangui, despite an order to return to their barracks.
The Red Cross says 400 bodies were found after three days of fighting between Seleka and a largely Christian armed group named Anti-Balaka [“anti-machete”, the weapon of choice of many Seleka fighters].
Meanwhile, thousands more international troops are on their way to the embattled country.
The African Union has about 2,500 troops there now, but is increasing that to 6,000.
In addition, the 1,200 French troops already in the country have been bolstered by the arrival of 400 more soldiers.
On Saturday, the country’s interim authorities ordered all forces except foreign peacekeepers and the presidential guard off the streets of Bangui, after a hospital in the capital was been attacked by Seleka rebels.
The armed men reportedly pulled injured victims from Bangui’s Amitie hospital, and shot dead at least 10.
The hospital has since been abandoned.
Al Jazeera has learned that the Anti-Balaka group contains elements of Bozize’s army, and is regrouping outside the capital, awaiting reinforcements.
French President Francois Hollande also said on Saturday it would be difficult for the current head of CAR to stay in place because he let the crisis there unfold.
“I don’t want to point fingers but we cannot keep in place a president who was not able to do anything, or even worse, who let things happen,” he said in an interview broadcast on the France 24 TV channel.
Hollande said elections should be held before 2015 when Djotodia’s mandate ends. “The idea is to head as fast as possible towards elections,” he said.
French forces started deploying to the north and west of the country to secure main roads and towns outside the capital, French army spokesman Gilles Jarron said on Saturday.
“Peacekeepers are patrolling the main roads. This is helping keep the looting down. But the atrocities are inside the neighbourhoods,” said Amy Martin, head of the UN officer for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“If they can get into the neighbourhoods, we might start seeing a reduction in these crimes. The level of atrocities and the lack of humanity, the senseless killing defies imagination.”
The latest bloodshed started on Thursday as armed Christians from Anti-Balaka raided Muslim neighbourhoods, in a country that has been seeing tit-for-tat violence between rival armed groups since Bozize’s downfall in March.