Central African Republic Rebels Attack Capital, France Sends Troops
Update: Rebels Take Control of Bangui
Seleka coalition rebels moved into Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), on Sunday. Explosions and gunfire have been reported as the rebel force began what they describe as a “decisive day” in their fight against President Francois Bozize.
“Today will be decisive. Our men are in Bangui, we are taking up positions,” said Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, senior leader of the Seleka rebel coalition.
Rebels advanced to the outskirts of the capital on Friday, taking the nearby town of Damara with little resistance from government forces and no resistance from the multinational African force of peacekeepers, who had previously said that Damara was a ‘red line’ which they wouldn’t allow the rebels to cross.
Fighting has been reported in both the north and the south of Bangui. The north of the city is also without power, after rebels sabotaged a hydroelectric power station.
“We call on the population to stay at home, on the FACA (Central African Armed Forces) not to fight, and on President (Francois) Bozize to leave,” said rebel spokesman Eric Massi on Saturday, before the attack began.
AFP quotes a source within FOMAC, the international African peacekeeping force, as saying that South African troops guarding a key checkpoint had prevented rebel vehicles from entering the city.
“According to our information, the rebels got men into the capital on foot, but they have not got through with vehicles because of the presence of the South African force,” said the unnamed source.
FOMAC troops did not engage rebel fighters advancing on the city on Friday because their rules of engagement only allow them to open fire if they are attacked themselves.
Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye yesterday called on rebels to accept an offer of talks in order to “avoid a bloodbath”. Tiangaye has some sway with rebels as he is an opposition figure appointed as part of a January peace deal between government and rebels. The current advance began when rebels claimed that the government had broken the terms of this same peace deal.
Clearly the rebel leadership have ignored Tiangaye’s offer of peace talks to make their move against the capital.
“If the heads of state of the Economic Community of Central African States request it, we are ready to meet them and talk, but not to negotiate with General Bozize,” rebel leader Djouma Narkoyo told AFP by telephone.
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