News / Africa

Central African Republic Leader in Talks with Militias

Central African Republic's President Michel Djotodia during a conference in Bangui, Dec. 8, 2013
Central African Republic's President Michel Djotodia during a conference in Bangui, Dec. 8, 2013
Reuters
Central African Republic's interim leader Michel Djotodia is weighing a possible amnesty for militias involved in Christian-Muslim violence that has killed hundreds of people, most of them civilians, in exchange for their disarmament.
    
The country has been paralyzed by cycles of killing, torture and looting since Djotodia's mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation in March.
    
Djotodia has since lost control of his former fighters whose abuses have led to the emergence of militias, known as the anti-balaka, meaning anti-machete in the local Sango language, opposing them.
    
Over 1,000 extra French troops were deployed this month to try to stop the violence that has displaced over 680,000 people - nearly one-seventh of the country's inhabitants - according to the United Nations.
    
The former rebel leader said in a state radio address late on Saturday that he had been contacted by a representative of the mainly Christian and animist anti-balaka, who were demanding inclusion in the transitional government he leads.
    
Elections are due to take place in 2015, however the government in Bangui currently exerts little control even within the capital.
    
"The anti-balaka sent us an emissary and said they want to lay down their weapons and leave the bush, but they fear for their security. They gave preconditions... They asked for an amnesty and entrance into government," Djotodia said.
    
"Contacts are already established and we will pursue these exchanges in the interest of peace for all Central Africans," he added. "We don't see the harm, because this is the price of peace."
    
The anti-balaka along with gunmen loyal to ousted President Francois Bozize, attacked the capital Bangui last week, triggering more killings and reprisals that have deepened inter-religious conflict. More than 500 people died and 189,000 have been displaced in the capital alone.

  • A man takes part in looting a mosque in Fouh district in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • Christians loot a mosque in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • A Christian mob attacks a mosque in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • Chadian troops with FOMAC reload their weapons as they leave the area next to the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • French troops detain a suspected Seleka officer, preventing Christian mobs from lynching him near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 9, 2013.
  • A suspected member of a Christian militia lays wounded by machete blows in the Kokoro neighborhood of Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 9, 2013.

A government spokesman that Djotodia was not excluding any of the demands made by the anti-balaka and was planning to reach out to other groups for similar talks - which might also mean the Seleka rebels.
    
"The president will consider anything that will lead to peace in Central African Republic," Guy-Simplice Kodegue said.
    
In a handwritten press statement seen by Reuters on Sunday, an anti-balaka group calling itself the Youth of the Anti-Balaka Revolution called upon its members to observe an immediate ceasefire to give peace talks a chance.
    
However, it was unclear how many fighters the group represented.
    
Rights groups expressed skepticism over whether an agreement with the only loosely affiliated militias could bring peace.
    
"I think the question is whether there is enough structure among the anti-balaka to deliver on promises to lay down arms" said Peter Bouckaert, emergency director at New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

European Support
 
Central African Republic is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium but has seen little stability and France has intervened there more since independence in 1960 than in any other former colony.
    
Paris has deployed 1,600 troops to prevent escalating bloodshed in what President Francois Holland has termed a humanitarian intervention.
    
Two French soldiers have been killed since the operation began more than a week ago, and public support for the mission in France has waned.
    
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he planned to ask for more help from France's European partners.
    
While European nations including Poland, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium have provided various forms of assistance, French troops are intervening alone.
    
"That is a real big problem," Fabius told Europe 1 radio. "Tomorrow, I'll go to the Council of Foreign Ministers and I will ask [European partners] for stepped-up, more robust aid, including on the ground."
    
The U.N.-authorized French military intervention has restored a degree of calm to the Bangui. And the African Union has authorized increasing its force in the country to 6,000 troops from 2,500.
    
But pockets of violence remain and tit-for-tat killings on both sides continued.
    
Near Bangui's municipal on Sunday stadium Reuters reporters saw the bloodied half-naked corpse of a young man in a dusty field, crouching face down in a pool of blood.
    
"He was shot twice by Seleka fighters," said Vanessa Amina who lives nearby.
    
HRW's Bouckaert said violence was also continuing outside of the capital, particularly in the town of Bouca, north of Bangui, and in Bohong, near the western border with Cameroon, where anti-balaka killed 27 Muslims last week.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid