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Coup in Central African Republic

Mark Caldwell (AP,Reuters,AFP)
March 25, 2013

Rebels have seized power the Central African Republic. Despite condemnation by the UN and sanctions from the AU, neither regional nor international players have much appetite for vigorous intervention.

People gather around a burnt Seleka Rebel truck in Begoua, 17 km (10 miles) from capital Bangui, in this still image taken from video, March 23, 2013. Rebels in Central African Republic seized control of the riverside capital Bangui after fierce fighting on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee and raising fears of instability in the mineral-rich heart of Africa
Image: Reuters

The president of Central African Republic (CAR), Francois Bozize, fled to neighboring Cameroon on Monday, as the rebels who overthrew him began squabbling as to who would now lead the impoverished nation long wracked by rebellions.

One of the Seleka rebel leaders, Michel Djotodia, said he considers himself to be the new head of state.

But another rebel leader, Nelson N'Jaadder, from the Revolution for Democracy, a group belonging to the Seleka rebel coalition which invaded the capital, said they will challenge Djotodia's attempt to install himself at the helm.

The move raises the spectre of continuing unrest, amid reports of chaotic and violent looting in the capital, Bangui.

Chief of the SELEKA rebel alliance Michel Djotodia sits on January 17, 2013 in Bangui during a ceremony. Opposition figure Nicolas Tiangaye was officially appointed today Prime Minister of the Central African Republic's new national unity government, President Francois Bozize said after a ceremony in the capital Bangui. The announcement was in line with a peace deal struck between the ruling party, the Seleka rebels and the democratic opposition in the Gabonese capital of Libreville last week.
Rebel leader Michel Djotodia says he is the new head of stateImage: Getty Images

"Sad moment for our country"

South Africa said 13 of its soldiers were killed in a fight against the Seleka rebels over the weekend as up to 3,000 fighters attacked its troops while advancing through Bangui.

It was one of South Africa's heaviest losses in combat in nearly two decades. "It is a sad moment for our country," President Jacob Zuma said.

South Africa has no immediate plans to withdraw its troops, "but once the dust has settled we will assess whether our presence there is still needed," Zuma added.

The Seleka rebel coalition is made up of several rebel groups, which began their rapid sweep into the CAR last December. They pushed all the way to a town just outside Damara, 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the capital, before entering into talks with the government.

Deal declared null and void

In January, they signed a peace deal in Libreville, the capital of the neighboring nation of Gabon, agreeing to allow Bozize to see out the last three years of his term, in return for a number of concessions.

Last week, they declared the peace deal void, saying Bozize had failed to free their prisoners and had refused to send back the South African troops that were guarding him, two points of the accord.

Paul Melly, Associate Fellow with the Africa Program at Chatham House in the UK, told DW that the international community had lost faith in Bozize because of his government's poor human rights record and its failure to live up to commitments in the peace deal.

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize, right, shakes hands with Michel Djotodia, leader of the Seleka rebel alliance, as heads of state and other participants applaud, during peace talks in Libreville, Gabon, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Officials say that the rebel group controlling much of the northern half of the country have agreed to enter into a coalition with the government. The deal will allow President Francois Bozize to stay in office until his current term expires in 2016. (Foto:Joel Bouopda Tatou/AP/dapd)
Seleka rebels signed an agreement with the CAR government in JanuaryImage: dapd

Melly also said the international forces that were present in the CAR - the French, the South Africans and the MICOPAX force of central African countries - "didn't want to become involved in what they see as essentially an internal Central African conflict."

 The government of Cameroon confirmed on Monday that Bozize was seeking "temporary" refuge there before leaving for another unspecified country.

The ousted president managed to get out of Central African Republic amid the fierce fighting over the weekend.

Isolate rebel government

The African Union suspended the Central African Republic from the bloc's activities on Monday and imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on seven top officials from the Seleka rebel group.

South African President Jacob Zuma attends 32nd summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at Maputo's Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre on August 17, 2012 in Maputo. Southern African leaders meet until August 18 in Maputo for a summit that will try to nudge Madagascar and Zimbabwe toward new elections under 'roadmaps' that are a test of the region's commitment to democracy. Zuma will cut short his visit to Mozambique to visit the Lonmin Marikana mine in Rustenburg where up to 36 striking miners were killed in a clash with police yesterday. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)
President Zuma said South Africa rejects any effort to sieze power by forceImage: AFP/Getty Images

The AU called on its members to "completely isolate" the new rebel government and urged the UN and EU to reject the "unconstitutional change."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the seizure of power by Seleka and called for "the swift restoration of constitutional order."

The UN Security Council was scheduled to hold emergency consultations on the crisis on Monday. 

The removal of Bozize, who himself seized power in a 2003 coup backed by Chad, was just the latest in a series of rebellions since the poor, landlocked country won independence from France in 1960.

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