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More Regional Troops Going to Central African Republic

  • Anne Look

An armored vehicle of of the Congolese army, part of the Central African Multinational Force is parked in front of a bank in central Bangui on April 3, 2013.

An armored vehicle of of the Congolese army, part of the Central African Multinational Force is parked in front of a bank in central Bangui on April 3, 2013.

It has been almost two months since the Seleka rebel coalition seized power in the Central African Republic, but rebel leaders say they are struggling to get criminality under control. The Economic Community of Central African States says it will begin sending an additional 1,200 regional troops to CAR this week to help stabilize the country.

This man in the town of Batangafo, in the northern Central African Republic, says armed men attacked his neighborhood on May 17, killing six people and setting fire to several houses. He asked that VOA not use his name out of fear for his safety.

He says they came in four cars. They did not speak the local Sango language, and they went door-to-door stealing and hitting people. He says they killed his cousin.

It has become a familiar story as frustration mounts in the Central African Republic over generalized insecurity since the Seleka rebel takeover on March 24.

Fighters for the Seleka rebel alliance stand guard in front of the presidential palace in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 25, 2013.

Fighters for the Seleka rebel alliance stand guard in front of the presidential palace in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 25, 2013.

Residents of the capital Bangui say that armed men they believe to be Seleka members are holding up taxi drivers for cash and visiting private homes to demand cars, televisions and other valuables.

Drivers in the capital tried to organize a day without taxis or buses on May 10, the second time they have done so since the rebel takeover, after two taxi drivers were killed. One was beaten to death, and another was strangled.

The secretary-general of one of the country's six transporter unions, Ange Vogar Mandipi, says their friend Mohamed Mbaye was strangled by Seleka fighters during the night of May 8. He says the attackers stole Mbaye's taxi and abandoned his body. He says the transporters called for the strike to get authorities to find the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, journalists organized a day without newspapers or news broadcasts on April 29 to protest the intimidation of reporters and the looting of press agencies by Seleka members.

In a statement to the U.N. Security Council last week, U.N. Special Representative to the CAR Margaret Vogt described a "state of anarchy and total disregard for international law as elements of Seleka have turned their vengeance against the population."

Vogt said Seleka leaders appeared either "unwilling or unable" to control their ranks.

Rebel leaders blame "out of control elements" and "fake Seleka" for continued criminality.

Deputy Seleka military chief General Ibrahim Safidine says they are having trouble identifying their fighters. He says not a day goes by that they do not hear about these blunders and abuses committed by people claiming to be Seleka. He says they are investigating and have put in place a strategy to weed out the perpetrators.

Part of the problem is that even the real Seleka fighters have trouble recognizing each other.

Seleka is a loose coalition of five rebel groups in the north that took up arms in December against the government of President Francois Bozize. They said the government had defaulted on previous peace accords, in particular promises to pay rebel groups to disarm and reintegrate into society.

The Bozize government is no longer, but the issue of disarmament is as much a problem as ever.

Seleka combatants say armed opportunists joined their ranks as they pushed south and more jumped on board when they took the capital.

The "real" Seleka members say they have not been paid since the takeover, other than receiving small food stipends of about $40. Some say their leaders had promised them victory payoffs of up to $6,000.

The country has begun the process of quartering rebel fighters, but the Seleka rank and file say they will not give up their arms until they are paid.

The Economic Community of Central African States says it is changing the mandate of the regional FOMAC force in the Central African Republic to empower it to help maintain order and enforce disarmament.

The regional body says in coming weeks it will more than double the size of the FOMAC force to 2,000 soldiers.

Jose Richard Pouambi contributed reporting from Bangui.

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