(photo: Estonian defense forces)
Estonian soldiers serving in the troubled Central African Republic will return home at the end of this month.
Around 50 Estonian defense force soldiers have been supporting local troops de-escalate a conflict in the country involving rival groups.
Commander in Chief of the Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Riho Terras, and parliamentary National Defense Committee chairman Mati Raidma were in Bangui on Thursday, where the situation is said to be tense but calm, public broadcasting reports.They visited the Estonian troops, who have started packing equipment for a pull-out date of August 31.
Terras told ERR radio that although there is no fighting, the warring sides have not given up their weapons.
But, said Terras, "there's a political process under way in a country where half a year ago there was almost no government at all."
Terras said locals and Estonians got on well ever since the infantry platoon and a support personnel arrived in early May.
"Estonians, as is the practice for us, were assigned to the EUFOR operation's most critical area and the local reception of the Estonians has been very good," Terras said.
Everyday life is returning to normal, with marketplaces and a bank up and running since the mission began, he and Raidma said.
In general, the Estonian infantry platoon and supporting units were tasked with being visible in an area where local Islamic units had moved in. The Estonians are armed and uniformed and the local population sees them as combating local criminal elements. The soldiers make irregular rounds and take away weapons where necessary.
Estonia currently has about 100 troops on various international missions, including on a mine countermeasures ship on the Baltic Sea, in Mali, on the UNTSO peacekeeping mission in the Middle East, and several staff officers in Kosovo.