Voting Ends In Central African Republic

Central African RepublicVoting has closed in the Central African Republic (CAR) where the people have voted to elect a new president in a run-off contest between two former prime ministers.

But final results in the poll – seen as a step towards restoring peace – are not expected for several weeks.

The seizure of power by a mainly Muslim rebel group in 2013 led to prolonged bloodshed.

Candidates, Faustin Touadera and Anicet Dologuele have pledged to restore security and boost the economy.

The citizens also voted for a new parliament following the annulment of a poll in December due to irregularities.

Mr Dologuele served under President Ange-Felix Patasse between 1999 and 2001, and Mr Touadera was Prime Minister under President Francois Bozize between 2008 and 2013.

Central African Republic: Presidential Run-Off Election Begins

central-african-republicCitizens are going to the polls to vote for the second round of Presidential elections in the Central African Republic.

The vote in Central African Republic is seen as a significant step towards restoring peace, stability and democratic government in the country.

According to BBC, both presidential candidates, former Prime Ministers, Faustin Touadera and Anicet Dologuele, have promised to restore security and boost the economy.

Mr Dologuele served under President Ange-Felix Patasse between 1999 and 2001, and Mr Touadera was Prime Minister under President Francois Bozize between 2008 and 2013.

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.

UN Calls For Sanctions On Central African Republic Rights Abusers

The UN envoy to the Central African Republic urged the Security Council on Wednesday to consider imposing sanctions on rebels accused of severe rights violations including rape, maiming, recruitment of child soldiers and forced marriages.

Margaret Vogt also told the council that a neutral security force should be deployed to “contain the current state of anarchy” in the mineral-rich state, where the Seleka rebels seized power on March 24, toppling President Francois Bozize.

“The abuses and violations committed by Seleka combatants and other armed elements … are a source of grave concern for the protection of civilians,” she said. “The time is ripe for the council to consider the imposition of individual sanctions against the architects and perpetrators of gross violations.”

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia, a former civil servant, has been named interim president by the parliament and charged with leading the chronically unstable country to elections within 18 months.

Vogt said security had disintegrated and that the Central African Republic “has collapsed into a state of anarchy and total disregard for international law, as elements of Seleka turn their vengeance against the population.”

“Indiscriminate and often targeted killings, rampant rapes and assault on the innocent population, flagrant recruitment of children as soldiers, looting of homes, not just of the rich but even of already struggling citizens,” she said.
She added the country appeared to have become a safe haven for different foreign rebel forces seeking to exploit natural resources like diamonds and gold and that the conflict now posed a direct threat to the security of its neighbors.

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.

Central African Republic capital falls to rebels, president flees

Rebels in Central African Republic seized control of the riverside capital Bangui after fierce fighting on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee and raising fears of instability in the mineral-rich heart of Africa.

Central African Republic president Francois Bozize speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in Bangui

At least nine South African soldiers were killed trying to prevent the rebels taking Bangui, a Reuters witness said, dealing a blow to Pretoria’s attempt to stabilize the chaotic Central African nation and assert its influence in the region.

The Seleka rebel coalition resumed hostilities this week in the former French colony and quickly swept south towards Bangui with the aim of toppling Bozize, whom it accused of breaking a January peace deal to integrate its fighters into the army.

“We have taken the presidential palace,” Eric Massi, a Seleka spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from Paris.

Senior government officials confirmed the rebels had captured the city of more than 600,000 people, which lies on the banks of the Oubangi river bordering Democratic Republic of Congo. Residents reported widespread looting of homes and businesses.

“The looting is bad. Both the population and Seleka are involved,” said one senior U.N. official in Bangui. “We are not sure who is in charge. I don’t think it is clear yet. It is too early in the game.”

The violence is the latest in a series of rebel incursions, clashes and coups that have plagued the landlocked nation – which has rich deposits of gold, diamonds and uranium – since its independence from France in 1960.

The whereabouts of Bozize – who seized power in a 2003 coup backed by neighboring Chad – was uncertain. A presidential advisor said he had crossed the river into Congo on Sunday morning as rebel forces headed for the presidential palace.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed Bozize had fled Bangui, but gave no details of his whereabouts. He appealed to France’s 1,200 citizens in the country to remain calm and stay in their homes.

Congo’s government asked the U.N. refugee agency to help move 25 members of Bozize’s family out of the border town of Zongo. Information Minister Lambert Mende said the ousted president was not among them: “Bozize is not in Democratic Republic of Congo.”

CAR has extensive and unprotected borders and the rebel takeover may add to instability in the turbulent region. It was one of several countries where U.S. special forces were helping local soldiers hunt down the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that has rampaged across Central Africa killing thousands.

Transition to elections

As the loose coalition of rebels – some of them former rivals – tightened their grip on Bangui, it was unclear who would replace Bozize or whether the power-sharing government of Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye would remain in place.

The rebels received several key ministerial portfolios in the government under January’s peace deal but accused Bozize of unfairly keeping important posts for his loyalists.

Nelson Ndjadder, a spokesman representing Seleka’s CPSK faction, said the rebels would begin a transition process towards elections which would include all political groups.

“This situation must not lead to any vengeance, pillaging or score-settling which we would quickly condemn and bring those responsible to justice,” Ndjadder said in a statement.

A Reuters witness, however, saw youths looting houses -including the residence of Bozize’s son, Francis – in the northern part of the city.

Rebel fighters directed looters towards the houses of army officers but fired their rifles in the air to protect the homes of ordinary citizens, the witness said.

Seleka’s forces had fought their way to the northern suburbs of the riverside capital late on Saturday before an overnight lull in the fighting. Residents said heavy weapons fire erupted across Bangui around 8 a.m. (3.00 a.m. ET).

Seleka’s Massi said the rebels had broken through a line of South African soldiers during their push into the city. Around 400 South African troops were deployed in the country as military trainers.

“I saw the bodies of six South African soldiers. They had all been shot,” a Reuters witness said. Later, he saw three more bodies in burned-out South African military vehicles.

Regional peacekeeping sources said the South Africans had fought alongside the Central African Republic’s army on Saturday to prevent rebels entering the capital.

South African army spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga told private South African news channel eENCA their forces had defended themselves when they came under attack.

A source with the United Nations in Bangui said South African troops were preparing to leave the country.

“They took substantial losses and have asked for French support to load their troops and take off,” said the source.

Several peacekeepers from the Central African regional force, including three Chadians, were also killed on Saturday, when a helicopter operated by Bozize’s forces attacked them, Chad’s presidency said in a statement.

Bozize seized power in 2003 with Chad’s support and Chadian forces have since intervened on several occasions to fend off attempts to depose him.
France, which already had 250 soldiers in Central African Republic, has sent in another company of 150 troops to secure Bangui’s international airport, a diplomat said on Saturday. Paris said on Sunday it had no plans to deploy more troops.

Seleka fought its way to the gates of the capital late last year after accusing Bozize of violating an earlier peace deal to give its fighters cash and jobs in exchange for laying down their arms.