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article imageOp-Ed: Rebels reported to have seized presidential palace in CAR

By Ken Hanly     Mar 24, 2013 in World
Bangui - Rebels in the Central African Republic are now reported to have seized the presidential palace after heavy fighting. Residents reported that gunfire could be heard in a number of parts of the city and that there was extensive looting of businesses.
As reported earlier in Digital Journal the rebels entered the capital Bangui today (March 24) Sylvanne Omar Pordass, a spokesperson of the Seleka rebels, told Al Jazeera that the president had fled into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
While the situation is still fluid, new reports would indicate the rebels are gaining control of Bangui. Government officials have now confirmed that president Bozize fled in the Democratic Republic of the Congo across the river. Gaston Mackouzangba, a presidential spokesperson said:"The rebels control the town. I hope there will not be any reprisals." A foreign ministry official confirmed that the rebels had also taken control of national TV and radio stations.
Diamini-Zuma, African Union Chief, condemned the seizure of power and urged AU members to make a unified and decisive response. The rebels had already controlled a considerable stretch of country after claiming that the government was not implementing a peace agreement brokered last January.
Last year the rebels had fought to the gates of Bangui before brokering the peace deal. They now see overthrowing president Bozize as the only solution although there are some rebel representatives in the government who will probably keep their jobs.
Michael Amoah, an African political analyst in London said: " I think now that Bangui has fallen and the president is out, the citizens are hopeful there will be no more military violence. And the current prime minister stays in place; he is the choice of the rebels anyway."
A spokesman for the prime minister asked that the rebels engage in talks with the government in order to avoid bloodshed.
Earlier the UN had warned the rebels not to enter the capital but to no avail. CAR is a former French colony. France already has 250 soldiers in CAR but reports say that another 150 troops were sent to secure the airport at Bagui. If France decides it should evacuate its citizens in CAR, the airport would be a key exit point. There are over a thousand French citizens in CAR.
South Africa has an even larger presence in CAR with some 400 soldiers sent to train Bozize's army. There are also hundreds of peacekeepers. On Friday the CAR state radio had announced that South Africe would boost its troop presence. There have already been reports of clashes between the South African troops and rebels. South African Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga, military spokesperson for CAR, said that there had been intense fighting between the rebels and South African forces over the weekend and that his forces had suffered some casualties from fighting on Saturday night.
The Seleka forces had demanded that Bozize send home the South African forces who were bolstering CAR forces. The agreement signed in January was to involve the integration of about 2,000 rebel fighters into the armed forces. Instead of that happening Bozize apparently was attempting to use the South Africans to help fight the rebels. No doubt any agreement with the CAR government will involve the withdrawal of the South African troops.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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