DAKAR / BANGUI
— In the Central African Republic, the newly created National Transition Council is working to appoint a vice president and other officers after electing rebel leader, Michel Djotodia, president on Saturday. The country has been in chaos since the March 24 rebel coup that toppled the government of President Francois Bozize. Fighting flared Sunday between rebels and loyalists of the ousted regime, killing at least 17 people, according to the Red Cross.
Heavy and small arms fire rocked the Central African Republic capital of Bangui. The fighting began late Saturday, spreading to several neighborhoods.
One resident of Bangui's Boye Rabe neighborhood told VOA the gunshots began there early Sunday. He said rebels entered several houses, saying they were looking for arms but actually taking people's property, and altercations began. He said Seleka cannot control its fighters, and civilians have been killed and wounded. He said they are asking themselves whether the rebellion is actually over and whether there is anyone who will take action to keep the population safe.
A leader of the Cite Jean XXIII neighborhood told VOA that a rebel shell hit a church during services.
He said at least three people died as a result, including two children.
The violence flared on the heels of rebel leader Michel Djotodia's election Saturday as president of the newly created National Transition Council. He was the only candidate.
In a declaration on state radio Sunday, Djotodia called for calm. He said the fighting had been started by loyalist youth militias, who had been armed under President Francois Bozize and who were firing on rebels on patrol.
Djotodia will oversee an 18-month transition period aimed at organizing democratic elections in which he said he will not run.
Accepting his post Saturday, Djotodia said he will do everything possible to ensure the progress of this political transition that has just begun. Key challenges, he said, are rebuilding national unity, restoring security and restarting the economy. He said it is time to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
The National Transition Council has 105 members drawn from the Seleka rebel coalition, the political opposition, civil society and supporters of the ousted government.
The Council was created at the behest of the Economic Community of Central African States, which refused to recognize Djotodia as head of state following the March 24th coup.
The Seleka rebel coalition is a loose alliance of rebel groups from the north who began their offensive in December, saying the government hadn't held up its end of 2007 peace accords.
Seleka leaders have struggled to control their fighters, who have repeatedly been accused of attacking civilians and rampant looting since they seized the capital three weeks ago.
Anne Look reported from Dakar and Jose Richard Pouambi filed from Bangui.