Central African Republic’s President Francois Bozize fired his son from the position of defense minister and assumed the role himself as rebel fighters threatened Bangui, the nation’s capital.
Bozize also fired army chief Guillaume Lapo, according to four presidential decrees read out on state broadcaster Radio Centrafrique yesterday.
The leader, who won power through a 2003 coup, on Dec. 31 called the army “incompetent and undisciplined” after being overcome by the northern insurgents, sometimes without a fight.
“If it were disciplined and properly fulfilled its mission, we would not be in this situation,” Bozize said in a speech broadcast on Radio Centrafrique.
The so-called Seleka militia, who say Bozize hasn’t honored the terms of a 2008 peace deal, has been moving toward Bangui since beginning an offensive on Dec. 10. The rebels paused their advance and are prepared to negotiate with the government, Interior Minister Josue Binua said yesterday.
Bozize has asked the rebels to disarm and allow him to serve out his term, while offering to create a government of national unity.
A deterioration of the military situation may “plunge the Central African Republic into a protracted cycle of violence and adversely affect regional security and stability,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairwoman of the African Union Commission, said in an e-mailed statement today.
The nation has been dogged by violence since its independence from France in 1960, with at least four armed battles for Bangui taking place from 1996 to 2003, when Bozize toppled his predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he previously served as army chief.
Gabon sent 120 soldiers to the Central African Republic on Jan. 1 to provide operational support for a peace mission under the mandate of the Economic Community of Central African States. France has also sent 150 troops, adding to the 250 it already had in the country, to support the mission and to protect the 1,200 French citizens in the country.
The country has a gross domestic product of about $3.6 billion and earns most of its foreign currency from timber and diamond exports, according to the CIA Factbook.