African Nations Call for Central African Republic Vote

Central African Republic’s new rulers faced growing isolation as African leaders refused to recognize the transitional government and South Africa said it was withdrawing its remaining troops from the country.

The 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States, or ECCAS, will deliver demands to the nation’s new leaders, stating elections must be held within 18 months, said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who attended the talks yesterday in Chad. South Africa will remove its military trainers, she said, after 13 were killed in fighting in the rebel assault on the capital, Bangui.

“There could be no recognition given to any government that comes to power through unconstitutional means, especially through a violent coup, such as the one that took place in the Central African Republic,” Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters today in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council suspended the Central African Republic last month and imposed travel bans and asset freezes on seven members of the Seleka rebels who overthrew President Francois Bozize on March 24. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia has promised elections within three years.

“Djotodia is very aware if he doesn’t follow these new directives, he’ll be punished by the international community,” David Zounmenou, a researcher in the African conflict prevention program at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said today in a phone interview. “He’ll be isolated. That would also undermine his authority internally.”

Kony Hunt

Uganda has suspended its pursuit of Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony in the Central African Republic after the transitional government in Bangui refused to cooperate, Asuman Asuman Kiyingi, Ugandan minister of state for foreign affairs, said by phone today from the capital, Kampala.

Uganda has more than 2,500 troops in Central African Republic as part of an African Union force created last year to hunt Kony. The Lord’s Resistance Army Lord fanned out across Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo after fleeing northern Uganda in 2005.

The ECCAS proposal for the Central African Repubic involves establishing an electoral college led by a five-member council that will have executive powers and will plan the election, Nkoana-Mashabane said. Leaders from the region and South Africa will hold a second summit in Chad after they receive a response from Seleka, which she said would probably be favorable.

“I don’t know of any leadership in any part of the world which says ’I want to isolate myself’,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Violent History

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. The insurgents resumed combat in March, saying Bozize had failed to meet a new set of demands.

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.

Contracts Honored

Axmin, in an April 2 statement on its website, said it was “pleased” that transitional government in Central African Republic had announced that it will honor lawfully concluded contracts.

“This is further confirmation of the validity of Axmin’s legally binding contractual agreements with the State and the will of the CAR transitional government both to honor those agreements and to create an environment in which we will be able to develop the Passendro Mine,” Chief Executive Officer George Roach said in the statement.

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.