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article imageRebels in Central African Republic nearing capital

By Ken Hanly     Mar 23, 2013 in World
Bangui - Rebels in the Central African Republic have now advanced to within 75km of the capital, Bangui, according to recent reports. The United Nations is evacuating all non-essential staff from the country as the situation deteriorates.
Residents of Bangui shut their offices, schools and shops on Saturday ( March 23), as the Seleka movement - an alliance of three rebel groups - claimed to have seized control of Bossembele, 160km northwest of Bangui late on Friday. The group has already taken many major towns in the country.Rebel spokesperson. Eric Massi said: "We have taken Bossembele. We are now 100km from Bangui on this [northwestern] front."
Another column is reported to be just 30km from Bangui on the northeast. THe rebels accuse President Francois Bozize of not keeping a January peace agreement that would have seen rebel fighters integrated into the armed forces.
The town of Bossembele is the location of a major military barracks. The report that the town has been taken by rebels has not been confirmed by independent sources as yet. The Seleka movement is a loose coalition of three different rebel groups.
Last year rebels also fought almost to Bangui and the issue was the same, that the president had not kept an earlier deal to give rebels cash and jobs in exchange for laying down their arms. Now as history repeats itself, the rebels claim to have lost faith in President Bozize who seized power in the country in a 2003 coup.
An Africa analyst, Lydie Boka, said to Al Jazeera rreporters:"South Africa clearly wants to play a bigger role in Africa because it is afraid of too much French influence as it has commercial interests there. It has been supporting the Bozize regime since 2007. So, whether rebels will take the risk of clashing with well-trained South African forces, remains to be seen. Chad issued a warning to the rebels in January to not cross the red line of Damara, which is 50km from the capital. Chad this time had been silent about that red line but its forces are at the entrance of Bangui, and we'll see whether they will let the rebels go through, because Chad is potentially also facing a rebellion."
The Seleka column that may have captured Bossembele is advancing south after capturing the president's hometown, Bossangoa, a town with a major garrison, which is 300km northwest of Bangui.
More about Central african republic, Rebels in CAR, bangui, UN in CAR
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