The north of the Central African Republic has been declared an autonomous state by a Muslim rebel leader. The country’s transitional government has declared the move illegal and has called for action.
Noureddine Adam, head of the Seleka rebels' FPRC faction, who is headquartered in the town of Kaga-Bandoro, declared the region autonomous this week giving it the name the "Republic of Logone."
His actions are an attempt to stall planned elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) slated for December 27 which are aimed at ending years of violence between the Muslim minority and the majority Christian populations in the country.
"What we want first of all is autonomy. Then we'll look at how to move towards independence," spokesman and chief lieutenant for Adam, Maouloud Moussa, told Reuters from the group's headquarters in the town of Kaga-Bandoro.
"Muslims are marginalized. The north has been abandoned by the central government," he said.
The spokesman for Central African Republic's transitional government immediately denounced the rebels' declaration.
"We call upon the international community and the international forces present in Central African Republic to do everything possible to neutralize the capacity of these terrorists to do harm," said Dominique Said Panguindji.
The country also held a referendum on Sunday on a new constitution which would allow the vote to take place.
Voting for the referendum was extended one day after violence broke out on Sunday killing five people. The vote proceeded peacefully on Monday.
Partial results issued on Tuesday indicate a victory in favor of the new constitution and the elections.
Adam had called for the referendum and elections to be cancelled. Campaigners, including Human Rights Watch, accused him of using intimidation to block voting in areas under his control.
The 11,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, MINUSCA, has threatened to use force against him.
"MINUSCA condemns the FPRC's declaration on the autonomy of the northeast and will use all means, including resorting to force, against any separatist attempt, in line with its mandate," the mission said in a statement.
CAR descended into renewed chaos after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking reprisal attacks by Christian anti-balaka militias.
Thousands have died and one in five of CAR's population of five million has been displaced by the violence.