March 25, 2013

CAR: Seleka Leader Declares Himself President

Michel Djotia at a Conference in France Recently
Michel Djotia at a Conference in France Recently

The leader of the rebels who took over the capital city of the Central African Republic has declared himself president and has pledged to keep a power-sharing government in place in compliance with a January peace deal

A spokesman for the Seleka rebels announced Michel Djotodia’s claim on Monday, a day after the rebels toppled the President Francois Bozize.

“The current prime minister remains in place and the cabinet will be slightly reshuffled,” said Eric Massi, the spokesman.

“Bangui is under our control and calm but we have things to do on the ground in terms of security. Looting must be stopped.”

The peace deal in January created a power-sharing government composed of rebels, civilian opposition and Bozize loyalists.

South African President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that thirteen of their troops were killed in clashes with the Seleka rebels on the outskirts of Bangui.

South Africa deployed 200 soldiers to CAR in January to support the government troops after the rebels launched an offensive in early December.

The rebels, who have accused Bozize of breaking the peace agreement, raided Bangui on Thursday. Bozize was believed to have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, was told by a DRC government spokesperson that Bozize was not in the country.

Seleka Rebels
Seleka Rebels

Massive looting

Looting and gunfire had earlier been reported across many parts of Bangui after rebels seized the presidential palace there on Saturday.

Witnesses said on Sunday that gunfire could be heard across many parts of the capital and that businesses were being looted.

“The situation is rather precarious, most residents are in their homes [because] everything has pretty much been looted,” said Amy Martin, the Bangui bureau chief for the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs.

She added that the looting was done by “a combination of armed elements” as well as neighbourhood residents targeting houses in the diplomatic community.

On Monday, the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement, saying “he is deeply concerned by reports of serious violations of human rights”, underscoring that those “responsible for committing such violations will be held accountable”.

He condemned the seizure, calling for “the swift restoration of constitutional order”.

“We have asked our citizens to remain at home. For the time being, there is nothing to be worried about,” said the source. “There is no direct threat to our citizens at the moment.”

France, which already has about 250 soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic, sent in another company of 150 troops to secure Bangui’s international airport, a diplomatic source said.

On Sunday, the French presidency said they were determined to protect their citizens in the country and had decided to strengthen their military presence.

Aljazeera

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