Flight from African Capital after Rebels Reject Deal ; President Offered to Form Unity Government in Central African Republic

By Polgreen, Lydia | International Herald Tribune, January 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Flight from African Capital after Rebels Reject Deal ; President Offered to Form Unity Government in Central African Republic


Polgreen, Lydia, International Herald Tribune


Expecting violence in the standoff between the fragile central government and a rebel group that has rebuffed his latest power- sharing offer, many living in Bangui are packing their belongings and leaving.

As efforts to broker a deal to stop a rebel advance failed, residents of the capital of the Central African Republic were packing up their belongings and fleeing into the country's vast hinterlands, fearing a major battle between government troops and guerrilla fighters.

Rebels rejected an offer from the country's president, Francois Bozize. It was brokered by the African Union and proposed forming a government of national unity. But the rebels balked, saying that previous agreements with the president had been made and quickly broken.

"Bozize speaks but does not keep his word," said a rebel spokesman, Juma Narkoyo. "That is why we have taken up arms to make our voices heard."

The rebel coalition, known as Seleka, is made up of several groups of fighters opposed to the government of Mr. Bozize, who came to power after a brief civil war in 2003 and has had a tenuous grip on the presidency ever since, winning two elections but facing a constant threat of rebellions aimed at toppling him.

The Seleka rebels say that Mr. Bozize has not lived up to the terms of a peace agreement signed in 2007. Mr. Narkoyo said the rebels had no plans to seize the capital, Bangui, but in the past they have advanced despite claims that they would stay put.

Government officials, meanwhile, said that the rebels were not actually from the Central African Republic but were instead foreign provocateurs bent on destabilizing one of the most fragile nations in Africa in order to exploit its mineral wealth. …

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