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March 25, 2013

CAR Rebels Plan Power-Sharing Government

by Gabe Joselow

Rebels in the Central African Republic say they plan to put in place a power-sharing government, a day after seizing the capital.  

Officials in the rebel coalition Seleka say they plan to install a government in CAR after driving President Francois Bozize from the capital, Bangui. 

​​​One of the Seleka leaders, Michel Djotodia, a former civil servant turned rebel commander, says he will declare himself interim president in the meantime.

The group also pledged to honor aspects of a peace agreement signed in January, including keeping the appointed opposition prime minister and holding elections in two to three years.

Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa director for the International Crisis Group, says the so-called Libreville agreement may be key to stabilizing the country.

“The Libreville agreement at this stage is the only political basis to set up a new government. So the fact that he is saying he wants to respect the framework of the Libreville agreement is definitely something positive,” said Vircoulon.
 
Seleka, a coalition of five rebel groups, launched its initial offensive in December, but stopped short of the capital.  They resumed hostilities last week after accusing President Bozize of breaking the agreement signed in January by not reintegrating the rebels into the military.

​​Bozize is now taking shelter in Cameroon.

Now that they are in a position of power, Vircoulon says the big question is whether they will be able to stay united, particularly the military and political wings of the group.
 
“So the real decision makers seem to be the military commanders, so a lot is going to depend on what they want and what they can negotiate at this stage,” he added.

Thirteen South African soldiers stationed in CAR were killed during fighting with Seleka rebels.  South African President Jacob Zuma announced the deaths Monday, saying the soldiers had been defending their military base in Bangui.

Zuma said South Africa sent 200 soldiers to CAR earlier this year as part of a military cooperation agreement.

The African Union says it has suspended CAR from AU activities, in line with a policy not to engage the perpetrators of coups and rebellions. The United States has called for all parties to respect human rights and has expressed concern about reports of abuses by national security forces and Seleka fighters.