Gabon’s foreign minister says regional heads of state plan to meet in the capital, Libreville, Thursday to find solutions to the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The meeting was organized by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet says the government in Libreville is working with representatives of the CAR government and the Seleka rebel coalition to end the conflict in that country.
Gabon, Issoze-Ngondet says, has often led efforts to find solutions to the political and security instability in neighboring CAR.
“This is to help the opposition, the ruling party and the rebels to discuss globally on every issue, which has been raised as a condition to create a peaceful atmosphere in the country,” said Issoze-Ngondet.
Seleka coalition rebels have captured cities and towns in central and eastern regions of the CAR and have threatened the capital.
Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo sent about 120 troops each, while South Africa sent 400 troops to help the CAR’s national army hold off the rebels.
Issoze-Ngondet says Gabon is working with countries in the region to help improve security in CAR. He said his government sent troops to CAR as part of a regional effort to help stabilize the country.
“ECCAS is trying to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in Central Africa. The last summit of heads of the sub-region, decided to reinforce the position of the regional force,” he said. “It is on this basis that Gabon and others sent troops to reinforce the position of the regional force.”
But, critics say the regional leaders just want to protect CAR President Francois Bozize, who faces demands by the rebels to step down. Issoze-Ngondet disagreed.
“This is not to protect the regime or to protect President Bozize. It is a mandate, which has been given to the regional force by the sub-regional organization, in a view to stabilize the country and to also help the country to solve the situation in a peaceful manner,” Issoze-Ngondet said.
Issoze-Ngondet expressed confidence that the regional leaders will come up with measures to end the CAR conflict.
“We have to be confident because the political way is the only way to solve this problem through negotiation. And I’m quite sure that on the basis of the relationships of the heads of state in the sub-region, with President Bozize, the political actors and even with the rebels, I am very confident that they will help to solve this problem,” he concluded.