Sunday, March 24, 2013

Central African Republic Rebels Move Into Capital

map by Evan Centanni (
Central African Republic rebels pushed into the capital of Bangui on Saturday, ignoring a call by the country's prime minister for talks to avoid a bloodbath.

The Reuters news agency quoted a rebel spokesman, Nelson Ndjadder, as saying his fighters shot down a government military helicopter and were headed for the presidential palace.

Earlier Saturday, a government spokesperson said Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye was asking members of the Seleka rebel alliance to get in touch with the national unity government to find a peaceful solution.

Seleka rebels say the only thing they wish to negotiate, however, is President Francois Bozize's departure.

Seleka political spokesman Eric Massi said Bozize must leave the C.A.R to bring peace.

On Friday, witnesses in the capital city said the streets were empty as people rushed home or tried to flee the city as the rebels approached. Schools and banks closed early following reports of the advance.
President of the Central African Republic Francois Bozizespeaks to the media at the presidential palace in Bangui, Central African Republic, January 2013.

Seleka began its offensive in December, seizing about one third of the country. The rebels later reached a peace deal with the government in regionally-mediated talks, but have accused Bozize of breaking the agreement.

Bozize has led the C.A.R. since taking power in a 2003 coup. The president was said to be in South Africa on Friday. A local journalist told VOA that Bozize's prime minister has sought refuge with the peacekeepers near the Bangui airport.

The C.A.R. has a history of coups and unrest since winning independence from France in 1960. 
from VOA News
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