Tag Archives: Seleka CAR

Central African Republic – Seleka to sign ceasefire and drop partition demand

Reuters

(Reuters) – Central African Republic’s mainly Muslim Seleka rebels will sign a ceasefire with ‘anti-balaka’ Christian militia on Wednesday, having dropped their demands for the country to be split in two along religious lines, Seleka officials told Reuters.

Seleka’s call for the country to be officially partitioned into a Muslim north and a Christian south risked derailing talks in Congo Republic aimed at ending religious violence that has killed thousands of people and forced 1 million to flee their homes.

“We will be signing the cessation of hostilities agreement this afternoon,” Colonel Youssouf Ben Moussa, a senior Seleka official, said by telephone from the Seleka-controlled north of Central African Republic.

“Our demand for the partition of the country has been dropped. That demand is obsolete now: what we have agreed to is the sharing of power,” Moussa added.

Most Muslims have fled the south of the former French colony, creating a de-facto partition, but Seleka leaders had pushed for this to be formalised.

Members of Seleka’s negotiating team in Congo Republic confirmed the information. They said they would provide further details after the signing of the deal in Brazzaville, where delegates from the armed groups, transitional government and civil society have held three days of talks.

The former French colony has been gripped by violence since Seleka seized power in March last year. Seleka’s rule was marked by abuses that prompted the creation of the ‘anti-balaka’ militia. Cycles of tit-for-tat violence have continued despite Seleka’s leaders stepping down from power in January this year. Reuters

Central African Republic’s Djotodia leaves for exile in Benin

Reuters
(Reuters) – Gunfire rang out, mosques were attacked and Muslim-owned shops and houses were looted overnight in Central African Republic’s capital, and the former president left for exile in Benin after stepping down as part of a drive to restore order.

There were hopes that the change of leadership might provide a fresh start to peace efforts, and violence had eased by daybreak .
But the United Nations stepped up flights out for foreigners. Governments of other African countries have evacuated nearly 30,000 of their citizens caught up in the violence.

President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye quit on Friday under intense international pressure after they failed to halt months of inter-religious violence that has driven a million people, a quarter of the country’s population, from their homes.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bangui, the country’s crumbling riverside capital, to celebrate the departure of Djotodia, who was swept to power by mainly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, last March.

Abuses by Seleka forces had led to the creation of Christian self-defence militia and killings that evoked memories of Rwanda’s genocide 20 years ago.

Joy gave way to violence late on Friday and African and French peacekeepers reported overnight clashes between Seleka fighters and the Christian militia in Bangui.

“But I can confirm that a good part of the shooting was warning shots from us to disperse looters who were targeting Muslim homes and shops,” an officer in the African peacekeeping mission said, asking not to be named.

The local Red Cross said it had collected three bodies from the streets after violence overnight.

“We don’t understand why we keep killing each other, looting and sowing destruction amongst civilians, even after the politicians people wanted out had stepped down,” said Ahamat Deliriss, vice president of the Islamic Council.

“Mosques in the Petevo, Yapele and Bimbo neighbourhoods were destroyed. It is a shame.”

The streets of Bangui were largely quiet on Saturday.

Government sources in both Chad and Benin said Djotodia on Saturday left Chad for Benin, where he will go into exile.

The choice is unsurprising as Djotodia knows Benin. He spent several years there during the last decade of turmoil and has family in the West African nation.

“TIME FOR PAYBACK”

Former colonial power France, which had sought to stay out of the latest crisis in a country where it has often intervened, dispatched hundreds of soldiers last month to bolster a beleaguered African peacekeeping force as killings spiralled.

Yet violence has continued, killing 1,000 in December. French and Chadian troops were among the victims and international pressure mounted on Djotodia to step aside at an emergency summit hosted by neighbouring Chad this week.

Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, the head of Central African Republic’s (CAR) transitional assembly (CNT), is officially in charge of the country until the body can select a new leader to guide CAR to elections, which are due later this year.

While Djotodia went into exile, Nguendet and other Central African politicians returned to Bangui where, even with 1,600 French and some 4,000 African peacekeepers on the ground, security is precarious.

The International Organisation for Migration on Saturday began airlifting stranded foreigners out of the country, where 60,000 people from neighbouring countries have asked to leave.

Some 27,000 people, mainly from Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad, have already been evacuated by their governments.

Tensions are running high among those who will remain.

“They (Muslims) killed us, looted and mistreated us. Now it is time for payback,” said Igor Moumini, a resident in the Sica 2 neighbourhood.

(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Braun in Bangui, Madjiasra Nako in N’Djamena and David Lewis in Dakar; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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FRance to ask EU partners to do more to support CAR intervention

RFI

France to seek European contribution to CAR intervention

People living in an abandoned airplane at Bangui airport

People living in an abandoned airplane at Bangui airport

Reuters/Emmanuel Braun
            By RFI     

France will ask its European Union partners to do more to help its intervention in the strife-torn Central African Republic, Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday ahead of a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

“Tomorrow I will go to the Foreign Affairs Council and I will ask that there be more solid, stronger support,” Fabius said Sunday on Europe 1 radio.

Dossier: War in Mali

 

Poland, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium are already helping with logistics, he said, and two countries are “currently considering” sending troops to back up the 1,600 soldiers there.

Nearly half of the 4.5-million population is in “pre-famine conditions”, according to the minister, and there are only seven surgeons among that number.

Fabius rejected claims that the French army has precipitated the massacre of Muslims by disarming the former Seleka rebels, leaving them at the mercy of Christian militias intent on revenge.

“The Seleka… still have weapons and sometimes heavy weapons,” he said. “So the first task is to disarm these heavy weapons. We also go to the Christians to say ‘you must disarm’.”

Right-wing former agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire expressed reservations about the intervention on Sunday.

He claimed that the political justification is “not clear” and that the cost will be high, while France is “alone”, and called on President François Hollande to seek more money from the European Union and more troops from other countries through the United Nations.

Hollande has already pledged that he will ask for more European back-up at a summit on Thursday and Friday. RFI

Central African Republic – 27 dead in latest attack by Christian militia

Reuters

By Emmanuel Braun

BANGUI          Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:09pm GMT

French soldiers patrol on military trucks on the streets in Bangui December 12, 2013. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun

French soldiers patrol on military trucks on the streets in Bangui December 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Emmanuel Braun

BANGUI (Reuters) – A militia group has killed 27 Muslims in a village in the Central African Republic, the United Nations said on Friday, in an attack underscoring the difficulties faced by French troops in stabilising their former colony.

The Christian militia, known as anti-Balaka, killed the Muslims on Thursday in Bohong, a village about 75 km (47 miles) from the far western town of Bouar, the U.N. Human Rights office said.

“The situation is also tense in several towns, including Bouca, Bossangoa and Bozoum, where a vicious cycle of attacks and reprisals continues,” it said in an email.

Mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March, ousting President Francois Bozize. They conducted a string of abuses, prompting the creation of Christian defence groups, which in turn deepened inter-religious conflict.

Christian militia and gunmen loyal to Bozize attacked the capital last week, triggering fresh killings and reprisals. More than 500 people died and 100,000 were displaced from their homes in the capital Bangui alone.

French troops, who now number 1,600 in the country, have restored some order to Bangui and begun disarming gunmen as well as moving out to other towns. But the killings in Bohong point to the scale of the task in a country the size of France.

“We condemn any attack on places of worship and on religious freedom, and urge all communities to exercise restraint,” the U.N. Human Rights office said in a briefing note.

The African country is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium but has seen little stability in five decades. France has intervened more since independence in 1960 than in any of its former colonies.

BANGUI CLASHES

Several people died in clashes in the Miskine neighbourhood of northwest Bangui on Thursday night and Friday morning, according to witnesses, a sign that the capital itself remains unstable.

The fighting started when ethnic Christians on Thursday looted the motor-bike shop of a man linked to the Seleka and escalated into reprisal killings. French troops, backed by a helicopter, restored calm on Friday, they said.

“The tension is still high in the neighbourhood despite the presence of the French,” said Chancella Cazalima, a student.

Residents in Miskine said it was a Seleka stronghold and urged the French army and African peacekeepers to step up their intelligence operations in a bid to bring calm.

There was no immediate comment from the French army.

Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye confirmed on Friday he would not stand at the next elections in accordance with a political accord signed in January.

“We will set up, in the next few days, the national transition authority. This structure, which is independent, is empowered to prepare and organise elections,” he said in an interview on France 24.

France wants elections brought forward to next year, putting an end to the interim period originally scheduled to run into 2015.

U|N says CAR violence spiralling out of control

BBC

CAR communal violence spiralling out control – UN chief

Seleka fighter (July 2013) The government says Seleka fighters have been integrated into the army

 

Communal violence in the Central African Republic risks spiralling out of control, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said.

He warned the Security Council that armed groups were inciting Christians and Muslims against each other.

Mr Ban also backed the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force before the crisis leads to widespread atrocities.

The impoverished country has been in a state of chaos since rebels seized power in March.

A rebel alliance known as Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize from office, replacing him with the alliance’s commander, Michel Djotodia.

Mr Djotodia has since formally disbanded the rebels and integrated many fighters into the national army.

But former rebels linked to Seleka have continued to launch attacks on scores of villages, prompting the emergence of local civilian protection groups.

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In a report to the Security Council, Mr Ban said violence in the CAR “threatens to degenerate into a countrywide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation”.

Armed gangs, mainly former Seleka rebels, who are mostly Muslim, now control most of the landlocked country.

Mr Ban said escalating rebel attacks and retaliation by Christian militia groups “have created a deep suspicion between Christians and Muslims in some areas of the country”.

In December, the African Union is due to take charge of the regional peacekeeping force of 2,500 troops currently in the country.

But Mr Ban said he supported the eventual establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission with as many as 9,000 troops as long as conditions allowed.

He also urged Security Council members to impose sanctions against perpetrators of mass rapes and killings allegedly already committed in the CAR.

The Christian majority and Muslim minority always lived in harmony until March 2013 when Mr Djotodia seized power after his forces overran the capital, Bangui.

Mr Djotodia became the first Muslim to rule CAR, installing himself as interim president and forming a transitional government that he says will organise democratic elections.

The government denies targeting any group, but recognises the rise in inter-community violence.   BBC

Central African Republic clashes kill 30

Yahoo

Central Africa clashes ‘leave 30 dead’

A truck with former Seleka coalition rebels drives by in Bangui on October 7, 2013

                                        Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) – At least 30 people died and dozens more were injured in clashes Tuesday between ex-rebels of the Seleka coalition and local self-defence groups in the Central Africa Republic, a security source said.

“Fierce fighting has claimed at least 30 lives … but the clashes were still going on as of mid-morning,” the source close to the military high command in Bangui told AFP.

Fighting in the village of Garga, in the country’s northwest, continued into Tuesday morning, the source added.

The self-defence groups began attacking the village on Monday, the source said, leaving three dead and a dozen injured.

They were beaten back by rebels from the former Seleka rebel coalition who distributed weapons to the local population.

Seleka was disbanded in name but continues to operate as a proto-militia in the region.

Garga was “emptied of its residents” who sought refuge in the bush around the area, the source said.

The poor, landlocked nation plunged into chaos earlier this year when a coalition of rebels and armed movements ousted president Francois Bozize in March.

The Central Africa Republic has been shaken by a recent increase in clashes between ex-rebels of the Seleka coalition that led the coup, who are Muslim, and local self-defence groups formed by rural residents who are Christian, in common with around 80 percent of the population.  yahoo

African regional leaders to boost African military force in CAR

 

Reuters

A soldier from the Seleka rebel alliance prays at the central mosque in Bangui March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Alain Amontchi

A soldier from the Seleka rebel alliance prays at the central mosque in Bangui March 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alain Amontchi

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – African military chiefs agreed on Saturday to more than double the size of a regional peacekeeping force deployed in Central African Republic, where authorities have struggled to contain violence after a rebel takeover.

Thousands of fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition led by Michel Djotodia marched into the capital Bangui on March 24, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee to neighbouring Cameroon.

Djotodia, a former civil servant, was later named interim president by parliament and asked to lead the country to elections within 18 months. But his fighters have been accused of grave human rights abuses.

“It is essential today to modify the mandate of the regional force deployed to Central African Republic … It must be reoriented towards maintaining order and securing the election process,” General Guy-Pierre Garcia, from Republic of Congo, told journalists.

The peacekeeping force, known as FOMAC, currently numbers 730 soldiers.

“The size of this force will be increased to 2,000 men,” Garcia said following a meeting of regional army chiefs in Gabon.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch accused Seleka fighters of rape, looting and executing opponents – acts it said could constitute war crimes.

Seleka, a grouping of five rebel movements, launched its insurgency in early December, accusing former President Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace deal.  reuters

Central African Republic – latest seizure of power in “phantom state”

Reuters

Bozize ouster is latest power grab in Africa’s “phantom state”

Central African Republic president Francois Bozize speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in Bangui January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Central African Republic president Francois Bozize speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in Bangui January 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luc Gnago

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – The French dubbed it the neglected “Cinderella” of their African colonial empire; modern observers have called it a “phantom state”.

Landlocked, isolated and poverty stricken, despite its reserves of gold, timber, uranium and gemstone quality diamonds, Central African Republic has been racked by debilitating rebellions for more than a decade.

In the latest revolt, fighters from a loose rebel alliance demanding an end to years of exclusion from government seized control of the riverside capital Bangui on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee.

Bozize’s toppling by the rebel Seleka coalition is another setback for efforts in Africa to build solid foundations of constitutional rule to accompany the continent’s buoyant economic growth in an otherwise troubled global economy.

It is particularly embarrassing for South Africa, which is seeking to project itself as an influential regional power on the continent this week as it hosts a summit of the BRICS emerging states and welcomes new Chinese President Xi Jinping on his first visit to Africa as head of state.

South African troops, in Central African Republic under a defense cooperation agreement, suffered losses fighting alongside government soldiers in a failed attempt to stop the rebels entering Bangui and to keep Bozize in power.

While lacking the strategic attention gained by other African hotspots such as Mali, Somalia or eastern Congo, Central African Republic has nevertheless been a festering sore of instability at the heart of an economically rising continent.

Some of the root causes of this lie in a colonial history of isolation and neglect. This was compounded after independence in 1960 by coups and bloody mutinies, French military meddling and rule by one of the world’s most bizarre and extravagant dictators, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, self-styled Emperor Bokassa I.

Bozize, a veteran military strongman who served as a general in Bokassa’s 1977-79 “Empire” and later seized power in a 2003 coup before winning a 2005 election, had opened a so-called Inclusive Political Dialogue with his rebel foes in 2008.

But his failure to deliver genuine power sharing, followed by his re-election in disputed 2011 polls which the opposition boycotted over alleged fraud, led directly to the offensive by the Seleka coalition of five armed rebel groups.

Fighters from Seleka, which means “alliance” in the local Sango language, had already closed in on Bangui in December, forcing Bozize to agree to a mid-January power-sharing deal that saw the formation of a national unity government.

But last week the rebels ended the ceasefire accord, accusing Bozize of failing to keep his promise to send the South African troops home and incorporate 2,000 rebels into the army.

“There is a frustration that has grown and grown with Bozize’s way of governing, which has been very uninclusive,” said Louisa Lombard, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley who has studied the Central African insurgencies.

“PHANTOM STATE”

Experts point to the absence of economic development and government control in Central African Republic’s bush interior as a major driver of discontent and revolt in a nation slightly larger than France but with a population of only 4.5 million.

This is seen as an inheritance of colonial times, when the territory, named Oubangui-Chari after two prominent local rivers, was an remote and neglected outpost between better developed French possessions in Chad and Congo Brazzaville.

In recent years, CAR’s extensive borders have been porous and unprotected, with armed intruders from Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo crossing at will to raid villages and poach wildlife, joining local bandits known as “zaraguinas”.

A 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable from Bangui bluntly calls Central African Republic “a country defined by its borders on the map and not by effective state control of its territory”.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group termed it “a phantom state” in 2007.

After the end of France’s colonial African empire in 1960, Central African Republic had the dubious distinction of being the state that experienced the most frequent French military interference in the continent’s post-independence history.

French soldiers, known locally as “barracudas” after France’s 1979 “Operation Barracuda” regime change that removed Bokassa from power, have over the years installed and ejected CAR leaders and helped quash rebellions and mutinies.

As recently as 2006 and 2007, French Mirage jets helped government soldiers repel insurgents in the restless northeast.

But while France launched a major military intervention in the Sahel state of Mali in January to drive back al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters it considers a serious regional threat, President Francois Hollande has made clear he does not view the revolt against Bozize in the same strategic light.

Despite appeals by Bozize to “our cousins” Paris and Washington for help, France has insisted its several hundred troops in its landlocked ex-colony are there solely to protect French nationals and interests and not the local government.

France said on Sunday it would send more troops to Bangui to protect its more than 1,000 citizens there.

GENERAL UNDER BOKASSA

For long-time observers of Central African Republic, the rekindling of the rebellion was a foregone conclusion after the failure of the 2008 process to form an inclusive government.

“There was a minor shuffle and opposition figures were given insignificant ministries, but the result cannot be viewed as a true power sharing accord,” then U.S. ambassador, Frederick B. Cook, wrote in a 2009 diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks.

Cook, who has since retired from the U.S. foreign service, was blunt in his assessments of Bozize, calling him “leader of a failed state”, who presided over a “kleptocratic government”, according to other 2009 cables.

The sense of exclusion among opponents of Bozize worsened after the 2011 presidential and legislative elections handed a sweeping re-election victory to the president and his Kwa Na Kwa party, under the opposition’s boycott.

An internal European Commission report said opposition candidates were “marginalized”, while internationally-backed security reforms and plans to disarm and demobilize the rebels became stalled, sowing the seeds for the revival of insurgency.

Bozize remains a contentious figure, who rose to prominence during the rule of Bokassa, a much decorated veteran of France’s colonial wars who seized power in a 1966 coup.

According to a 1997 book, “Dark Age – The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa” by historian Brian Titley, Bozize was promoted from second-lieutenant to general by Bokassa after he hit a Frenchman who was showing disrespect to the president.

Bokassa had himself crowned Central African Emperor in 1977 in a $22 million ceremony bankrolled by France – an extravaganza of pomp in a pauper state that was pilloried around the world.

Titley said Bozize and another of Bokassa’s generals, Josephat Mayomokola, along with the elite imperial guard, were ordered by the Emperor to suppress student-led protests in 1979. Dozens of people were killed in Bangui’s poor suburbs.

The arrest and deaths in jail of schoolchildren in these protests destroyed Bokassa’s relationship with main backer France and led to his ouster by French paratroops in 1979.

More than three decades later, the Seleka rebels who have toppled Bozize say they want to organize national talks and a transition to democratic elections.

But there are questions about whether this can end the cycle of instability in Central African Republic. The rebels who have replaced Bozize are themselves diverse and divided, split between bush guerrilla leaders and exiled politicians.

“What unites everyone is a hatred of Bozize, but whether that proves strong enough to hold them together is an open question,” said Lombard. reuters

Central African Republic – rebels capture another town

Reuters

By Paul-Marin Ngoupana

BANGUI |          Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:05pm GMT

BANGUI (Reuters) – Rebels pushed closer to the capital of Central African Republic on Wednesday despite a military intervention by neighbouring Chad meant to halt their rapid advance in the mineral-rich country.

The insurgents, who have threatened to unseat CAR’s president unless he honours a five-year-old peace deal, said they seized that town of Kabo, around 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Bangui in the morning.

Rebel Colonel Joseph Zoundeko told Reuters his men had already started pushing further south and warned forces from CAR’s ally Chad, who crossed into the country on Tuesday, to stay away.

“Kabo is under our control since this morning … We quickly routed the government troops present in the town, killing 12 and taking six prisoners,” he said.

“We ask (Chadian president Idriss) Deby not to get mixed up in our affairs … His troops must keep away from our positions,” Zoundeko added.

A United Nations official confirmed the fall of Kabo, the latest in a string of towns taken by the insurgents since they launched their offensive further in the north and northeast of the chronically unstable country last week.

The fighting has already forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, The International Committee of the Red Cross said.

REBEL ALLIANCE

CAR’s government on Wednesday said its army had made a strategic retreat in some areas but had not been driven out of the north.

“The military offensive led by our forces with the Chadian army … have indeed allowed us to begin the reconquest and control of the attacked zones,” it added in a statement, without going into further detail.

Around 20 vehicles carrying soldiers from CAR’s northern neighbour Chad crossed the border on Tuesday to help push back the rebels, government and U.N. officials said. There were no reports of them clashing with the insurgents.

Zoundeko said he was part of a rebel alliance known as Seleka and made up of breakaway factions from the CPJP, UFDR and CPSK – groups which signed a 2007 peace deal.

The rebels on Monday demanded the government free prisoners and pay rebel soldiers money promised to them in the agreement, among other demands.

Long-running instability in landlocked CAR, roughly the size of former colonial master France, has discouraged major investment in its timber, gold, uranium and diamond deposits.

A mix of local rebellions, banditry, ethnic tensions and the spill-over of conflicts in neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have undermined efforts to stabilise the nation since independence in 1960.

President Francois Bozize took power in a 2003 coup with support from Chad’s President Idriss Deby and won a new mandate in January 2011 elections which opponents dismissed as fraudulent.

The two leaders remain close allies, and Chad has intervened in CAR on several occasions in support of Bozize.  reuters