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Ex-Rebel Reshuffle in Central African Republic

The ex-Seleka rebel coalition in the Central African Republic has announced plans to set up a tax agency, according to international observers. At a meeting last week, the north of the country, the coalition also appointed chiefs of a new political wing for the movement. An ex-Seleka leader who was not at the meeting says it could add to splits in the movement and the country.

It is unclear if the ex-Seleka leaders who attended the meeting at Kaga Bandoro, in northern Central African Republic, have issued a final communiqué. But various sources, including international observers, agree the meeting appointed new heads of a political and military bureau, and discussed plans to set up an agency to manage the ex-Seleka’s revenues from minerals, natural resources and roadblocks.

An ex-Seleka member in Bangui, Hamat Malmal Hissene, told VOA quarrels over roadblock "taxes" levied by ex-Seleka combatants was the main reason for bloody factional fighting that has weakened the movement in recent months.

As for the plans for a new tax agency, Malmal said, he does not have the details. But he added it is to make sure the Seleka combatants are provided for.

Early Tuesday, VOA was told Moustapha Sabone and Ousmane Mahamat Ousmane had been chosen as the tax bureau’s coordinators, but in the evening, Ousmane, who had just returned from Kaga Bandoro, contacted VOA to say this was not true.

He said the movement’s co-founder, Michel Djotodia, who was CAR president for 10 months until January, has been appointed head of the political bureau, with General Nourredine Adam as deputy head, and Ousmane as third in command of the political wing.

Some ex-Seleka leaders were not at the meeting, among them General Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane who signed a cease-fire agreement with the government and a rival militia, the anti-Balaka, in June and has since joined the government.

Dhaffane told VOA when he and his colleagues went to Brazzaville to negotiate the agreement they were delegated by the movement, but today ambitious people are repositioning themselves and splitting the ex-Seleka into factions.

Dhaffane warned the decisions taken by the assembly in Kaga Bandoro risk leading to a partition of the country.

Publicly, not many ex-Seleka leaders are proposing a partition. One of its military leaders, General Abdel Kader, told VOA last week that partition is out of the question.

Ousmane Mahamat Ousmane also spoke to VOA last week before the assembly, when he denied he or the ex-Seleka are challenging the transitional government.

He said "we as Seleka recognize the government in place, which is also recognized by the National Transitional Council and the international community, during the transition period."

An international observer said the Kaga Bandoro meeting shows the ex-Seleka openly claiming state powers, such as tax raising, and organizing an alternative government, suggesting the movement still sees partition as a future option. The observer suggested the movement has split into at least three factions, mainly based on ethnicity.