45 servicemen will be flown to Bangui by a Boeing C-17 in joint ownership of NATO member states. The other six of the unit led by contingent commander Lieutenant Colonel Sten Allik have already been in CAR since Tuesday last week.
As described by Lieut. Col. Allik, by now the Estonians have acquainted themselves with the area of their responsibility in Bangui and considered how to guarantee logistical support of the contingent. As of today, 150 EU soldiers have reached the crisis area; Estonians being the first non-French unit to join the mission.
«During May and June, Latvian, Spanish, and Georgian units will join up. Plus staff officers from 12 EU member states,» said Lieut. Col. Allik. The 800-member EU contingent ought to reach peak capacity by mid-June.
«To begin with, the future EUFOR base area near airport will be taken under control; this will be the first task for the Estonian contingent. Operations on our area of responsibility will commence in the middle of May, after acclimatisation,» explained Lieut. Col. Allik. On the territory, the 35-member combat unit of Scoutsbattalion, mounted on four SISU armoured vehicles, will be performing patrol tasks and manning posts.
Also, EUFOR troops in Bangui will assume responsibility for security at M’Poko airport, that the French troops which have stood watch there for a year might move on to conflict areas outside the capital. During the mission, the tasks of the Estonians will rotate; it is not excluded that they would have to secure paths for humanitarian aid, or act as strike teams.
The broader goal for the half-year EU mission is to strengthen the forces of 6,000 African Union and 2,000 French soldiers in avoiding violence till 12,000 UN peacekeepers will arrive in mid-September.
At the end of April, the French Major General Philippe Pontiès in charge of the European mission told the media that he wants to see operation of investigative bodies, prisons, and the court system in Bangui, so these areas would serve as examples to the rest of the country.
«Our aim is to leave behind two sectors where the situation is safe, freedom of movement secured, and economic activity restored. As these conditions have been created, we will pull out,» promised Maj. Gen. Pontiès.
According to experts, though, there is little hope the above would be achieved in such a short time. EUFOR may indeed take its troops out of Bangui in six months; still, police tasks and the training of local power structures will carry over into next year.