The embattled leader of the Central African Republic has dismissed his son Jean Francis Bozize as defense minister for failing to curb a rebellion. The rebels say they have halted their advance to give peace a chance.
The Central African Republic's President Francois Bozize has sacked top military officials including his own son, as hundreds of troops from neighboring Chad, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon are reportedly arriving in the landlocked country. The regional forces were called in to stop an insurgent rebel alliance known as Seleka. The rebels, who seized 10 towns in a month's time, say they will give peace negotiations between them and Bozize's government a chance.
DW: Thierry Vircoulon, what do you think of President Bozize's actions?
Thierry Vircoulon: Well I think this is the result of the fact that the national army was unable to stop the rebels. The rebels have basically crossed the whole country. At the beginning of December, they moved from the northeastern parts of the Central African Republic to the south without encountering much military resistance from the army. That's why the minister of defense and the army chief have been dismissed.
President Bozize said that he is assuming control of the defense ministry in place of his son. Is this going to make any difference?
This is some sort of an old technique which has been used many times by President Bozize. When he was dissatisfied with the performance of a minister, he sometimes used to take over control of the department himself. But it didn't change anything, and I don't think this is going to make a difference because the problem of the Central African army is not only a problem of leadership. It's a structural problem. So this change of commander is not going to make a difference.
Why did he appoint his son defense minister in the first place?
The Central African regime was very much a family business because several sons of President Bozize were in the security sector. Some were in the police, some were in the army, and the most prominent one was appointed minister of defense. He appointed them to the security sector in order to control them. This strategy has proved that he was not effective, and therefore the fact that you use your family to run such services as security is definitely not a strategy that can be effective now, because it hasn't been in the past.
The rebels have agreed to peace talks but insist Bozize must go. But the president says he will not leave until his term ends in 2016. How likely is it that these two parties could reach an agreement?
The situation right now on the ground is that the only force preventing the rebels from moving to Bangui is the African peacekeeping force. If the peacekeeping force decides to stop the rebels, I think the only solution for them will be to negotiate, to go to Libreville because there is strong pressure from the region. The region has decided that this would be the exit strategy for this crisis. But I think we can also be in a situation where this standoff could last for several days, maybe several weeks and there is going to be a lot of behind the scenes negotiations. I get the sense that everybody is waiting for the rebels' decision after they decided to stop their advance on Bangui. They have to decide if they really want to go to Libreville and negotiate. I think right now there are contacts with the African Union and with the Central African states to try to negotiate a delegation to go to Libreville.
Thierry Vircoulon is an expert on Central Africa and Project Director at the International Crisis Group based in Nairobi.
Interview: Asumpta Lattus