Regional leaders met in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, to discuss progress on a peace plan for the Central African Republic, where at least 119 people have died in violence after a coup last month.
The meeting is being attended by CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye and other members of the Seleka rebel group that seized the country on March 24. South African President Jacob Zuma, Congo Republic’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Gabon’s Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba were also present at the summit organized by the Economic Community of Central African States, or Eccas.
“The CAR is like a wound in the heart of Central Africa,” Chadian President Idriss Deby said in an opening speech. He criticized “rogue elements who spread desolation among the population” and urged the region to “end this situation.”
President Francois Bozize’s government was removed from office on March 24 by Seleka forces who began an uprising in December. The country has been plagued by violence since independence from France in 1960, with at least four battles for the capital, Bangui, taking place from 1996 until 2003.
Last weekend, more than 20 people were killed in clashes in Bangui, including four who died when a church they were in was struck by an artillery shell. At least 37,000 people have fled the fighting, with “tens of thousands” more forced to abandon their homes, according to the UN.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on April 15 he’s alarmed by the deteriorating security situation in CAR and “strongly condemned” acts of violence by members of Seleka against civilians. He also urged Eccas and the African Union to take “immediate and urgent measures to address the gravity of the security situation.”
Today’s meeting will assess the progress that’s been made on implementing an agreement reached by Eccas heads of state in N’Djamena on April 3, according to a statement e-mailed by the Congo Republic’s presidency. The leaders have condemned the coup and urged the country’s new president, Michel Djotodia, to hold elections within 18 months.
The meeting is also expected to decide on sending more troops from the regional Multinational Force of Central Africa to help stabilize the country, according to the statement.
Seleka began its rebellion after accusing Bozize of failing to honor a 2008 peace accord. An agreement signed in Libreville in January ended the fighting and created a unity government. The insurgents resumed combat in March, saying Bozize had failed to meet a new set of demands.
Central African Republic 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 World Factbook.
Pangea Diamondfields Inc., an Isle of Man-based exploration company, owns a concession that is currently on care and maintenance, according to its website. Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest lender, ended talks with Axmin Inc., a Canadian gold explorer, over a $100 million loan to help finance a gold mine there, the Johannesburg-based Financial Mail magazine reported on April 10.
Eccas members include Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe and Chad.