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CAR's Djotodia recognised by region

19 April 2013, 08:15

N'Djamena - Leaders of the Central Africa regional bloc recognised Michel Djotodia on Thursday as transitional head of the Central African Republic but stopped short of embracing him as president, conveying their concern about his taking of power by force.

Djotodia led thousands of rebel fighters from the Seleka coalition into the riverside capital of the mineral-rich but chronically unstable country on 24 March, overthrowing President Francois Bozize.

African heads of state and Western powers had refused to recognise him as the country's legitimate leader and called for the creation of a transitional council to lead the nation to elections within 18 months.

After a meeting in the Chadian capital N'Djamena on Thursday, Central African heads of state said they had taken note of Djotodia's election last weekend by the transitional council in Bangui acting as a parliament.

"Mr Djotodia will not be called president of the republic, but head of state of the transition," Chadian President Idriss Deby said after the meeting, which included a delegation representing the transition government.

The regional leaders, who have been mediating in Central African Republic's crisis to overcome feuding among its various factions, also adopted a framework for Bangui's transitional rule, increasing the number of council members to 130 from 105.

Under the roadmap, Djotodia will lead the transition but not be eligible to run for the presidency at the end of it.

Djotodia has said improving security in the ramshackle capital and across the impoverished, landlocked nation would be his main priority during the transition period.

Seleka launched its insurgency in early December, accusing Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace deal by failing to make promised payments to rebels who had help him seize power in 2003 and to integrate them into the regular army.

Calm has yet to return in Bangui since last month's coup as Seleka fighters have repeatedly clashed with youths loyal to the ousted former president. At least 13 people were killed and dozens wounded in violence on Tuesday.

A mix of local rebellions, banditry, ethnic tensions and spillover of conflicts from neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have long undermined efforts to stabilise Central African Republic, which has suffered from misrule and lawlessness since independence from France in 1960.

Regional leaders on Thursday said they would boost their military force in the Central African Republic by 2 000 soldiers, in a bid to restore order as violence and looting plague the country after a March coup.

In a statement issued after a summit hosted by Chad, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) bloc said the additional troops would assist the transition government "with security as well as restructuring security forces".

Chadian President Idriss Deby said earlier on Thursday the current 500-strong multinational peacekeeping force FOMAC was "insufficient to do the job".

"Armed bands loot, hold to ransom and racketeer the population," he added, stating that the Seleka rebel alliance which ousted president Francois Bozize "is an organisation that lacks unity and the initiative of a command [structure]".

The heads of state reminded Seleka leader and interim president Michel Djotodia that the transition period was fixed at 18 months, and that neither he nor any members of his government could run in ensuing elections.



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