There was deep anxiety in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, CAR, yesterday, December 27, 2012 as rebels advanced towards the city, a UN envoy told the BBC. Margaret Vogt said Bangui residents were fearful of what could happen if the rebels overran the city.
Séléka rebels advanced towards Bangui on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 having passed the last remaining major government-controlled town to the north, sources said. A military source and an aid worker said the rebels had reached Damara, 75 km from Bangui, by late afternoon, having avoided Sibut where some 150 Chadian soldiers had earlier been deployed to block a push south by the rebel coalition. A government official told news agencies that the rebels were on the outskirts of the capital.
As a result, the United Nations yesterday began evacuating its non-essential staff from the country, while the US urged its nationals to leave. France ordered tighter security around its embassy in Bangui after it was attacked on Wednesday, December 26 by protesters who want France to help quash the rebellion, accusing the former colonial power of abandoning them.
Meanwhile, French President, François Hollande yesterday maintained that his country's presence in the Central African Republic is to protect its interests and French citizens, not the government of President François Bozize. Speaking in the French capital, Paris, President Hollande said he would not intervene in the internal business of CAR, adding that those days were over. Hollande ordered French troops stationed in the country on Wednesday to reinforce security at France's Embassy after protesters threw rocks at the building and some managed to enter the compound before being repulsed.
Séléka rebels accuse President François Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal under which fighters who laid down their arms were to be paid. They began their campaign a month ago in the north and have taken 10 towns in their push towards the capital. President Bozize, who seized power in a coup in 2003, has repeatedly relied on foreign intervention to fend off rebellions and the spill-over from conflicts in neighbouring Chad and Sudan.
The Central African Republic has faced numerous rebellions since independence from France in 1960. The mineral-rich country is home to about five million people and is considered by the UN as one of the least developed countries in the world.