Celebrations In Central African Republic After Leader Resigns

Thousands of people celebrated on the streets of Central African Republic’s capital after interim President, Michel Djotodia resigned on Friday (January 10).

President Michel Djotodia caved in to international pressure after failing to halt inter-religious violence.

As news from the summit reached the capital, thousands of residents took to the streets, dancing, singing and honking horns in celebration.

Cheers erupted at a camp for 100,000 displaced Christian civilians at the French-controlled airport.

A displaced man said that people were happy with the resignation but remained concerned over their security.

“A lot of worries because you still have people from rebels who have weapons. What is sure is that if the safety of the civilian population is not guaranteed, there will still be some harm being done, as we have seen lately,” said the man, who gave his name as Armand.

There was some sporadic gunfire but there were no signs of the pro-Djotodia fighters who once dominated the city.

The resignation of Djotodia and his Prime Minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, was announced in a statement issued by regional leaders at a two-day summit in neighbouring Chad.

Talks to decide on new leadership will take place in Central African Republic, it said.

France To Increase Forces In Central Africa With UN Backing

France will increase its force in Central African Republic to at least on 1,000 soldiers after a U.N. resolution expected next week, French officials said on Tuesday, warning of the risk of regional instability.

The nation of 4.6 million people has descended into violence and chaos since rebels, many from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March.

CAR’s Prime Minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, said on Monday Fabius told him France aimed to boost its number of soldiers in the country by 800 from about 400.

“We are going to reinforce our presence,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Culture radio. “We are waiting for a United Nations resolution that should come next week.”

“Until now, only Central Africans were threatened, but if the (power) vacuum and implosion sets in, it will threaten all countries in the region: Chad, Sudan, Congo and Cameroon.”

Asked about the figure of 800 additional troops, Fabius said the number “makes sense”, but did not elaborate further.

Separately, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio France would support a planned African-led force with “around one thousand” troops. He did not specify whether that was the size of the reinforcement or the total number.

He said the mission was likely to last about six months depending on the timetable set by the United Nations. He dismissed comparisons with France’s intervention Mali, where Paris deployed 4,000 troops in January to keep Islamist militants from taking the capital Bamako.

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said at the United Nations that the French troops in CAR would restore law and order until an African Union force of 3,600 troops – known as MISCA – was fully operational.

In addition to the French troops in the country, there is a 2,500-strong regional force deployed by the Economic Community of Central African States. The African Union is due to take charge of that force in December and boost its size.

The violence in the mineral-rich  country has increasingly pitted the mainly Muslim fighters of the Seleka rebels against Christian militias. Christians make up half the population and Muslims 15 percent.

Central African Republic Leader Takes Defense Ministry In Caretaker Government

Central African Republic’s new leader Michel Djotodia announced a caretaker government on Sunday in which he is defense minister, according to a statement issued by his spokesman.

The new government, which is due to hold elections in the mineral-rich former French colony within three years, will retain civilian opposition representative Nicolas Tiangaye as prime minister.

Djotodia toppled President Francois Bozize on March 24 after leading thousands of his Seleka rebel fighters into the riverside capital Bangui, triggering days of looting and drawing international condemnation.

The African Union suspended Central African Republic and imposed sanctions on Seleka leaders, including Djotodia, last week. France and the United States say the rebels should adhere to a power-sharing deal signed in Gabon’s capital Libreville in January that mapped out a transition to elections in 2016 in which Bozize was forbidden from running.

Djotodia has pledged to act in the spirit of the agreement and said on Friday he would step down in 2016. But Washington on Saturday said Tiangaye, named premier under the Libreville agreement, was now the only legal head of government.

Bozize seized power in a 2003 coup, but his failure to keep promises of power-sharing after winning disputed 2011 polls led to the offensive by five rebel groups known as Seleka, which means “alliance” in the Sango language.