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CAR rebel chief to name power-sharing govt

26 March 2013, 16:14

Bangui - The leader of rebels in Central African Republic pledged to name a power-sharing government in a bid to defuse international criticism of Sunday's coup that killed 13 South African soldiers and plunged the mineral-rich nation into chaos.

Regional peacekeepers said that the leader of the Seleka rebel coalition, self-proclaimed President Michel Djotodia, appealed for help in restoring order after his own men joined in a second day of looting in the riverside capital Bangui.

The rebels' ouster of President Francois Bozize was swiftly condemned by the United Nations and the African Union. But in a sign of pragmatism, the United States, France and regional power broker Chad called on the insurgents to respect a January peace deal creating a unity government.

At least 5 000 Seleka fighters swept into the capital on Sunday after a lightning offensive in which they fought their way from the far north to the presidential palace in four days after a the collapse of the power-sharing agreement signed in the Gabonese capital Libreville.

Neighbouring Cameroon confirmed on Monday that Bozize had arrived there but said it was not giving him permanent refugee.

The removal of Bozize, who himself seized power in a 2003 coup backed by Chad, was just the latest in a series of rebellions since the poor, landlocked country won independence from France in 1960.

"We will respect the Libreville accord, which means a political transition of 2 to 3 years before elections," Seleka spokesperson Eric Massi said by telephone.

National address

The Libreville deal - drafted by regional mediators after the rebels besieged Bangui in December - had created a government drawn from Bozize loyalists, rebel leaders and the civilian opposition.

Massi said that civilian opposition member Nicolas Tiangaye would remain as prime minister with a slightly rejigged cabinet.

In the sprawling capital, 600 000 residents remained without power and running water for a third day, preventing Djotodia from making a planned national address from the presidential palace.

Despite a curfew, there was widespread pillaging of offices, public buildings and businesses by rebels and civilians.

"Public order is the biggest problem right now," said General Jean Felix Akanga, commander of the regional African peacekeeping force. "Seleka's leaders are struggling to control their men. The president has asked us to help restore calm."

He said the rebels would start to confine their forces to barracks from Monday.


- Reuters


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