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Donors pledge 2 billion euros for Central African Republic

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - International donors promised 2.06 billion euros ($2.2 billion)for the Central African Republic on Thursday, seeking to cement a recovery from three years of sectarian strife that has left the country dependent on United Nations peacekeepers.

A woman carries her child in a camp sheltering internally displaced people (IDPs) next to the M'Poko international airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

At a conference in Brussels, 80 countries and international agencies pledged the money for the next four years, including more than 700 million euros from the European Union.

“We need to aid the most vulnerable, the many displaced, those who sought refuge in neighboring countries and to help them go home,” said Andre Vallini, France’s junior minister for development, of the former French colony.

Despite a respite in violence after a new president was elected in February, clashes between militias are rising in one of the world’s most chronically unstable countries.

The departure of French troops this month puts the onus on U.N. peacekeepers and an EU military training mission, as well as an International Monetary Fund program, to try to rebuild the country in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We’re here to help the country back on its feet,” Vallini said, adding France would give 85 million euros for the 2017-2019 period, having pledged 75 million euros in 2014.

The country has been plagued by inter-religious and inter-communal conflict since 2013 when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, prompting reprisals from the anti-Balaka militia, many of whose fighters are nominally Christian.

Elections in February that brought President Faustin-Archange Touadera to power were seen as a success, but with no army and few basic services, the government in the capital Bangui does not have control over the whole country.

Violence has displaced about 400,000 people, with only some beginning to return home.

“Our priority is to help bring back and integrate the displaced and the refugees,” Touadera told donors.

Donors hope funds can provide housing and establish land and property rights to allow refugees to return. They hope to support the economy, which is relying on a $115.8 million International Monetary Fund program agreed in July.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Janet Lawrence