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Seleka rebel coalition member, which launched a major offensive last month, hold on January 10, 2013 a position in a village 12 kms from Damara, where troops of the regional African force FOMAC are stationned. Rebels in Central Africa on March 22, 2013 were advancing on the capital Bangui after forcing their way through a key checkpoint manned by international forces, a military source told AFP. The rebels from the Seleka coalition had shot their way through the Damara checkpoint, some 75 kilometres (47 miles) north of the capital, around 1100 GMT, said a source with the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) which was manning the roadblock. AFP PHOTO/ SIA KAMBOU (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)
Zentralafrikanische Republik Seleka RebellenImage: AFP/Getty Images

Central African Republic mired in crisis

Nadina Schwarzbeck / mc
August 16, 2013

In the Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia, who came to power in a coup five months ago, will be inaugurated as president on Sunday. The United Nations says the country is on the brink of collapse.


On March 24, 2013, rebels from Seleka, a recently formed alliance of militias, toppled president Francois Bozize, who himself had seized power in a coup back in 2003.

Bozize fled Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), for Cameroon. The rebels appointed an interim government and their leader Michel Djotodia declared himself interim president. Five months later, the country is in chaos with widespread looting, murder and sexual violence.

Gervais Lakosso, who works for a local human rights group, told Deutsche Welle that the regime supports the perpetrators of such crimes. But he added, "they are members of Seleka and they could be kept under control."

New Central African Republic leader Michel Djotodia speaks on Republic Plaza in Bangui on March 30, 2013 . The Central African Republic's new strongman Michel Djotodia vowed Saturday not to contest 2016 polls and hand over power at the end of the three-year transition he declared after his coup a week ago. AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)
Michel Djotodia agreed in April to hold elections in 18 months timeImage: Getty Images

Attacks on the civilian population are frequent in Bangui. Andreas Mehler, expert on Central Africa at the Leibniz Institute for Global and Regional Studies in Hamburg, said all the country's major socio-economic problems have got worse. "This applies to malnutrition, the absence of health care and the mortality rate. Children can't go to school. About 1.6 million out of a population of 4.6 million are dependent on direct aid," he told DW.

Even though the country is rich in natural resources such as diamonds, gold and uranium, it is one of the poorest places on earth. Internal conflicts within Seleka would hinder attempts to lift the country out of poverty. The rebel alliance is split into factions and they don't take orders from each other.

CAR - a failed state?

The interim government is unable to stem the violence. Djotodia evidently finds the post of interim president challenging, but nonetheless he will be taking the oath of office on Sunday (18.08.2013). He wants to hold elections in 18 months time.

Seleka rebels pose in a vehicle left by South-African soldiers , on April 4, 2013 in a street of Bangui. South African President Jacob Zuma, facing a firestorm over the deaths of 13 soldiers in a coup in the Central African Republic, said on April 4, 2013 he was withdrawing troops from the restive nation.AFP PHOTO / PATRICK FORT (Photo credit should read PATRICK FORT/AFP/Getty Images)
Seleka rebels pose in a vehicle left behind by South African soldiers, 13 of whom were killed in the March coupImage: AFP/Getty Images

Mehler said that external logistical support would be needed for a nationwide poll and in the past this has been provided either by French troops or a UN mission. "But it is important to keep on insisting that the election will take place on the date he announced, so that he can be voted out of office if necessary," he added.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos told the UN Security Council that the CAR was at risk of becoming a failed state.

She urged the Security Council to support the African Union's peacekeeping efforts there. This month the AU rolled an existing 1,100-strong regional peacekeeping mission, known as MICOPAX, into a new large AU peacekeeping force. The plan is to more than triple the number of troops to 3,600.

Sanctions as possible answer to atrocities

The new force, known as International Support Mission to Central Africa (MISCA), has an AU mandate to protect civilians, help stabilize the country and restore government. The AU has requested financial, logistical and technical support for the mission. Its starting date is uncertain.

The Central African Republic's President Francois Bozize looks on as he gives a press conference, on January 8, 2013 at the presidential palace in Bangui. Bozize refused on January 8 to discuss resigning at upcoming peace talks with rebels who have stormed across the country and seized several key towns. AFP PHOTO/ SIA KAMBOU (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)
Francois Bozize will try regain power "if the opportunity presents itself"Image: AFP/Getty Images

In a statement after its meeting, the Security Council said it was considering all potential options to stabilize CAR.

It did not specify what the potential options might be, but a recent report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recommended sanctions against officials suspected of committing atrocities.

The CAR crisis, the Security Council underlined, posed a threat to the "stability of the CAR and the region."

It also highlighted "grave concern" about a deterioration in the humanitarian situation. The crisis has forced 60,000 people to flee CAR for neighboring countries and has displaced more than 200,000.

The International Federation for Human Rights said last month it had documented at least 400 murders by Seleka-affiliated groups since March. Barring a few arrests in Bangui, all those killings have gone unpunished.

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