Central African Rebels Reject Concessions, Plan to Resume CombatCrispin Dembassa
Central African Republic’s Seleka rebel group said they will resume an offensive against the government after President Francois Bozize failed to meet a set of demands issued four days ago.
The United Nations Security Council expressed “strong concern” about the deteriorating security situation in the country and urged all parties to respect a peace accord signed two months ago in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
“The president failed to meet all of our demands,” Sylvain Borbas, a spokesman for Seleka, said in a phone interview. “We are preparing ourselves to resume combat. We cannot tell you when we will start fighting again, but we are preparing our strategy.”
Bozize said yesterday he would free political detainees and prisoners of war, according to a decree distributed to reporters today in the capital, Bangui. Seleka had demanded the government also double its number of Cabinet posts to 10 and order the withdrawal of South African forces from the country.
Seleka fighters advanced to within about 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Bangui in December after a monthlong assault aimed at ousting Bozize’s administration, accusing it of failing to honor a 2008 peace accord. The rebellion ended after the agreement was signed on Jan. 11.
Since then, the rebels resumed their attacks and now control three quarters of the country, Margaret Vogt, special representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Central African Republic, said in a statement yesterday.
The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence since independence from France in 1960, with at least four battles for Bangui taking place from 1996 to 2003, when Bozize toppled predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he served as army chief.
Under the Libreville accord, Bozize’s administration and the rebels agreed to form a government of national unity. Under the agreement, Nicolas Tiangaye of the opposition was appointed prime minister, while Seleka was given government portfolios including the Defense Ministry.
“Governments of national unity are extremely difficult to implement,” Vogt said. “They’re rife with all sorts of tension and the situation has not been made easier by the fact that we have a rebellion that controls three-quarters of the country.”
Pangea Diamondfields Inc., an Isle of Man-based exploration company, owns a concession in Central African Republic that is currently on care and maintenance, according to the company’s website. Axmin Inc., a Canadian gold explorer, said Jan. 7 it delayed plans to open a mine in the country by at least a year because of the rebellion.