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Central African Republic Claims Mercenaries Plotting to Oust President - 2004-09-10

The president of the Central African Republic says he suspects a merecenary plot to remove him from power.

President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic says he has found evidence of a mercenary plot stirring in the impoverished nation to derail what he says are his attempts to return the country to democratic rule.

During an address, broadcast on state television and radio, President Bozize claimed that foreign mercenaries were being recruited to seize control of the nation.

An American Embassy employee in the capital, Bangui, Philippe Makendebou, says President Bozize addressed district leaders to encourage them to report any "subversive acts."

"The different chiefs of the district of Bangui, asking them to be ready for the coming election," he said. "And then he mentioned that, according to some confidential notes he got, he can confirm that there are some rumors of people trying to come back to the power by arms. So, I think that he was probably mentioning the former president."

Wiith the help of mercenaries hired from neighboring Chad, President Bozize seized power last year from former President Ange-Felix Patasse while he was traveling out of the country.

Mr. Makendebou says many people in Bangui believe President Bozize is accusing former President Patasse of orchestrating the mercenary plot from exile in Togo.

The Central African Republic has been plagued by coups and rebellions since it gained independence from former colonial power France in 1960.

And the Chadian mercenaries hired by President Bozize during last year's coup have continued to loot and cause problems on both sides of the countries' borders.

Since President Bozize took power, he has suspended the constitution and dissolved the parliament. But he has vowed to hold democratic elections early in 2005.