Central African Rebels Plan to Reorganize Government, Hold VotePauline Bax
Central African Republic’s rebel Seleka movement, which seized power two days ago, said it will reorganize the government by tomorrow and later hold elections.
Seleka is also working to restore calm in the capital, Bangui, Christophe Gazambeti, a member of the rebel group who was appointed as communications minister in a unity government, said in a phone interview today from the city. A 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is in force in Bangui, while French forces control the city’s airport and Air France flights are operating, the French Embassy in the country said on its website.
“We have to get the looters off the streets and our soldiers back to the barracks,” Gazambeti said. Regional troops under the Central African Multinational Force are helping restore stability, “and French forces have arrived, so that will help too,” he said.
Central African Republic President Francois Bozize fled the country to neighboring Cameroon on March 24 after the rebels seized Bangui. Seleka ended a cease-fire agreed on in January after Bozize failed to meet rebel demands to double the number of Cabinet posts they hold in a two-month-old unity government. They also demanded that South African forces in the country to provide training be withdrawn.
“The government is going to be reshuffled, probably within the next 24 hours or so,” Gazambeti said. “Of course there will be elections. There will be municipal, legislative and presidential elections,” he said, without saying when.
Gazambeti was among seven Seleka officials the African Union said will be subject to asset freezes and travel bans after the unconstitutional change of government. The continental body also suspended Central African Republic’s membership. Gazambeti declined to comment on those actions.
The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence since independence from France in 1960. At least four battles for Bangui took place from 1996 until 2003, when Bozize toppled predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he served as army chief. Seleka began its rebellion in December after accusing Bozize of failing to honor a 2008 peace accord. An agreement signed in Libreville in January ended the fighting and created the unity government.
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.
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 World Factbook.