An early French bid to capture the capital of Central African Republic failed as French never could muster adequate forces to hold against the rebels with superiority in numbers, arms and tactics.
As rebels seized the presidential palace in the capital of the Central African Republic early Sunday, following an advance by a rebel alliance from the north toward Bangui, researcher Roland Marchal says CAR instability has been exasperating for France.
Roland Marchal is a senior research fellow at the National Centre for Scientific Research, based at Sciences-Po in Paris.
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Meanwhile Central African Republic rebel leader Michel Djotodia vowed to maintain a power-sharing government after his fighters ousted President Francois Bozize in clashes in which 13 South African soldiers were killed.
Djotodia, in remarks reported yesterday by Radio France Internationale after his Seleka rebels took control of the capital, Bangui, said he would keep Nicolas Tiangaye, a former opposition leader, as prime minister. A presidential inauguration ceremony for Djotodia was planned for today, RFI said.
“I don’t know how long I will remain in power,” Djotodia was quoted as saying. Within three years, “we will organize free and transparent elections.”
Bozize, 66, left Bangui after the insurgents seized the city, Central African Republic’s consul to Gabon, Claude Ayo- Iguendha, said in an interview in the Gabonese capital, Libreville. France, which Ayo-Iguendha said has about 1,200 citizens living in Bangui, sent troops to the country to help protect them.
The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence since independence from France in 1960, with at least four battles for Bangui taking place from 1996 to 2003, when Bozize toppled predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he served as army chief. Seleka began their rebellion in December after accusing Bozize of failing to honor a 2008 peace accord. An agreement signed in Libreville in January ended the fighting. The rebels resumed combat last week after Bozize failed to meet a new set of demands.
Bozize arrived yesterday in the Cameroonian border town of Kentzou, about 392 kilometers (243 miles) east of the capital, Yaounde, the governor of the East Region, Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua, said by telephone today. Bozize is currently in the East Region’s capital, Bertoua, he said.
South African President Jacob Zuma said 13 South African soldiers were killed in the fighting in Bangui and 27 were wounded. Clashes between 200 South African troops and about 1,000 rebels lasted nine hours, he told reporters today in Pretoria, the nation’s capital.
Soldiers from the Congo Republic, France, Gabon and South Africa were deployed in Central African Republic after the Libreville agreement was signed.
The African Union called the rebel’s seizure of the capital a “flagrant violation” of the peace agreement and said it would consider suspending the country from the regional body and imposing sanctions.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “unconstitutional seizure of power” and said he was “deeply concerned by reports of serious violations of human rights.”
French President Francois Hollande boosted his country’s military presence in Bangui “to ensure, if necessary, the protection of French residents,” according to a statement yesterday from the president’s office in Paris. He urged “all parties to remain calm and for talks to take place around the government formed under the Libreville accord.”
Under that agreement, Bozize’s administration and the rebels agreed to form a government of national unity. Tiangaye was appointed prime minister, while Seleka was given five Cabinet posts, including the Defense Ministry.