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Bangui Tense, but Calm, as CAR Rebels Establish Control

  • Gabe Joselow

A Seleka coalition rebel stands guard on March 25, 2013 inside the presidential palace compound in Bangui.

A Seleka coalition rebel stands guard on March 25, 2013 inside the presidential palace compound in Bangui.

Rebels in the Central African Republic have promised to dissolve the government, days after driving the president from the capital.

The rebel Seleka movement has called for new elections to be held in two to three years, and have said an opposition politician will lead a new unity government, in line with a peace agreement signed in January.

Rebel fighters seized the capital over the weekend, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee to Cameroon. He is currently in the Hilton hotel in the capital, Yaounde.

One of the rebel leaders, Michel Djotodia, has declared himself president in the interim. Reports indicate the rebels have made good on a promise to restore order to the capital, which has been overrun by looters since the takeover.

Electricity and water have been partially restored in the city and markets are slowly coming back to life, said Sylvain Groulx of Doctors Without Borders in Bangui.

"Right now the situation is timidly coming back to a certain sense of normalcy, although there is still a certain sense of insecurity because of the looting that is ongoing and especially at night a lot of gunfire," Groulx said.

The medical aid group, known by its French acronym MSF, says some of its facilities in the capital were looted in the past few days. Groulx said hospitals, which are under equipped during times of peace, have been hit particularly hard.

"The problem is that with this insecurity, there are still a lot of issues that need to be solved, following this looting: getting fuel to hospitals, getting supplies to hospitals," he said. "It is a major task right now.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The conflict spilled Monday into Cameroon when Seleka fighters entered the town of Kenzou to free rebels who were jailed there. Regional governor Samuel Ivaha Diboua confirmed the incident and said security forces have reinforced their positions to prevent the rebels from returning.

"We came with reinforcements of the army and gendarmes to make peace reign in this area," he said. "We can say at this moment there is no problem.”

A statement from the office of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor reminded perpetrators of crimes in the Central African Republic that the country is under ICC jurisdiction. The statement said "those who seek to attain or retain political power by targeting civilians will be held accountable."

The African Union suspended the Central African Republic from all AU activities earlier this week in line with a policy not to engage with perpetrators of rebellions and coups.