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article imageRebels in the Central African Republic seize key city

By Raluca Besliu     Dec 24, 2012 in Politics
In its offensive against President Francois Bozize, the Seleka rebel coalition in the Central African Republic (CAR) has seized the key city of Bambari on Sunday, situated at a crossroads between diamond mining sites and routes to the east.
The city, the third largest in the country, is one of several towns recently captured by the rebels and the closest to Bangui, the country’s capital. Bambari was captured from governmental forces in only two hours, determine some of its 40,000 inhabitants to flee the city in search of safety.
The city’s conquest came a day after regional leaders had demanded the rebels to withdraw to original positions and to enter talks with the government. Some observers suggest that the rebels might have used a display of force as a tactic to put pressure on the government before engaging in discussions.
The rebels had previously seized several other towns, which include Ndélé, which links CAR to Sudan, Cameroon and Chad, Sam-Ouandja, Ouadda, Bamingui and Bria, situated the country’s diamond mining area.
The Seleka coalition was launched in August 2012 and is made up of breakaway factions from three former armed groups. It consists of Nureldine Adam’s Wa Kodro Salute Patriotic Convention (CPSK), Dhaffane Mohamed Moussa’s Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), and a dissident faction of the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) led by Michel Djotodja. The first two rebel groups had reached peace agreements with the government and were supposed to cease fighting.
The rebels claim that President Bozize,who gained power in 2003 through a coup and subsequently won elections in 2005 and 2011, has failed to uphold a 2007 peace agreement, and have pledged to deposed him unless he started negotiating with them. Among their key requirements, the rebels demand financial compensation and prisoner release as promised in the 2007 agreement, the implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 inclusive political dialogue and an investigation into the disappearance of former CPJP leader Charles Massi.
On 18 December, Chadian troops entered CAR to join the government armed forces in retaking the captured towns, in response to an appeal from Bozize. As the rebels are likely to continue their advance toward the country’s capital city, the Chadian forces are used to secure strategic routes as well as stationed close to Bangui to create a buffer zone.
Nevertheless, the rebels’ actions might compromise the peace process launched in CAR and the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and three rebel movements-APRD (Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy), UFR (Union of Republican Forces) and UFDR. The African Union recently urged the Selenka coalition to withdraw immediately from all occupied cities and to cease fighting.
The rebels' attacks have displaced thousands of people from their homes in the cities they have already conquered, who currently face restricted access to assistance and social services and loss of personal belongings and livelihoods.
Despite a wealth of resources, including gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, the CAR remains an extremely poor country, which has experienced numerous rebellions since obtaining its independence from France in 1960.
More about Central african republic, seleka coalition, Rebels, Chad
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