UN chief condemns armed attacks by rebels in CAR

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ban_ki-moonThe armed attacks launched by rebel fighters on several towns in the Central African Republic have been strongly condemned by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The rebels are reported to have advanced towards the capital, Bangui, prompting the United Nations to temporarily relocate its non-essential staff from the country.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, Mr. Ban says he deeply regrets the loss of life and population displacement caused by the fighting.

The Central African Republic Bush War began with the rebellion by the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), led by Michel Detodia, after the current President of the Central African Republic, François Bozizé, seized power in 2003. This quickly escalated into major fighting during 2004.

The UFDR rebel forces consisted of three allies, the Groupe d’action patriotique pour la liberation de Centrafrique (GAPLC), the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), and the Front démocratique Centrafricain (FDC). Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the unrest, which continued until 2007, with rebel forces seizing several cities during the conflict.

On April 13, 2007, a peace agreement between the government and the UFDR was signed in Birao. The agreement provided for an amnesty for the UFDR, its recognition as a political party, and the integration of its fighters into the army.  Further negotiations resulted in an agreement in 2008 for reconciliation, a unity government, and local elections in 2009 and parliamentary and presidential elections in 2010.

The new unity government that resulted was formed in January 2009.

According to the Human Rights Watch, hundreds of civilians were killed, more than 10,000 houses burned, and approximately 212,000 persons fled their homes to live in desperate conditions deep in the bush in northern parts of the Central African Republic.

He warns that the offensive by the coalition of rebel groups known as “SELEKA” gravely undermines the peace process and the efforts of the international community to consolidate peace in the country.

Timeline

  • 18 December 2012: A coalition of rebels called Seleka took over the mining town of Bria, killing at least 15 government soldiers. The group, spearheaded by UFDR forces, has already taken five towns in since beginning their offensive on 10 December. The rebels claim they are fighting because of a lack of progress after a peace deal ended the 2004–2007 Central African Republic Bush War. Following an appeal for help from Central African President François Bozizé, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby, pledged to sends 2,000 troops to help quell the rebellion.
  • 23 December 2012: The Seleka rebel coalition took over Bambari, the country’s third largest town.
  • 25 December 2012: The Seleka rebel coalition captured Kaga-Bandoro, the fourth major city to fall since the return to hostilities on December 10. Meanwhile, President Bozizé met with military advisers in the capital, Bangui.
  • 26 December 2012: Hundreds of protesters angered by the rebel advance surrounded the French embassy in Bangui, hurling stones, burning tires and tearing down the French flag. The demonstrators accused the former colonial power of failing to help the army fight off rebel forces. At least 50 people, including women and children, were sheltering inside the building, protected by a large contingent of around 250 French troops that surrounded the area. A separate, smaller group of protesters chanted slogans outside the US Embassy and threw stones at cars carrying white passengers, according to news reports. A scheduled Air France weekly flight from Paris to Bangui had to turn back “due to the situation in Bangui”, a spokeswoman at the company said. Later in the day, a military source and aid workers confirmed that rebel forces had reached Damara, bypassing the town of Sibut where around 150 Chadian troops are stationed together with CAR troops that withdrew from Kaga-Bandoro. Josué Binoua, the CAR’s minister for territorial administration, requested that France intervene in case the rebels, now only 75 kms away, manage to reach the capital Bangui. Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, a spokesman for Seleka, called on the army to lay down its weapons, adding that “Bozizé has lost all his legitimacy and does not control the country.”
  • 27 December 2012: CAR President Bozizé, asked the international community for assistance, specifically France and the United States, during a speech in the capital Bangui. French President Francois Hollande rejected the appeal, saying that French troops would only be used to protect French nationals in the CAR, and not to defend Bozizé’s government. Reports indicated that US military authorities were preparing plans to evacuate “several hundred” American citizens, as well as other nationals. General Jean-Felix Akaga, commander of the Economic Community of Central African States’ Multinational Force of Central Africa, said the capital was “fully secured” by the troops from its MICOPAX peacekeeping mission, adding that reinforcements should arrive soon. However, military sources in Gabon and Cameroon denied the report, claiming no decision had been taken regarding the crisis.

He appeals to all parties in the Central African Republic to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians, including sexual and gender-based violence.

The Secretary-General also calls on the warring parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect human rights.

CENTRALAFRICANREP – Donn Bobb, United Nations Radio.

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