President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) has reaffirmed that he would reject the rebel's demand to step down as related parties are working to decide on a date to begin planned peace talks in Gabon.
Though both the CAR government and the Seleka rebels have agreed to hold talks amid mounting international pressure, the two sides seemed to be quite firm in their own stance concerning a possible solution to relieving the impoverished country of sustained war fire. If the removal of President Bozize is proposed during the talks, it will be rejected, a presidential spokesman said Thursday, adding that the way to solve the current crisis is to form a united government. Bozize said earlier he would not leave the presidency before his term ends in 2016. He promised to form a government of national unity with his adversaries and offered them government posts.
The Seleka rebel coalition has raised its voice asking Bozize to step down as they took control of large areas in the mineral-rich country after a three-week advance. The rebels stopped its offensive about a week ago after it captured the town of Sibut, which is 160 km from the capital Bangui.Knowing the government forces are far from adequate to deter a possible attack on the capital, Bozize appealed for outside help and succeeded in convincing neighboring countries to send in more troops to reinforce an existing contingent of Central African Multinational Force(Fomac) near Bangui.
The 700-strong Fomac troops, now stationed in Damara, a town situated 70 km from Bangui, would not cede the town in case of rebel attacks, Fomac Commander General Jean-Felix Akaga said, warning that Damara town is the "red line which the rebels cannot be allowed to cross." There has been mainly a lull in and around Bangui this week, but deadly clashes were reported in areas under rebel control. The United Nations Humanitarian Office (OCHA) on Thursday expressed concern about the protection of civilians amid reports of "widespread looting and violence" in the country.The UN body estimated that about 316,000 people are living in affected areas, and some 700,000 people in Bangui would be at risk if fighting escalates.
The United States last week withdrew its embassy staff from Bangui week as France sent 180 additional troops to CAR to join the 420 French soldiers already deployed in the country for peace mission. France on Thursday called on all parties in the Central African Republic to join peace talks in Libreville, capital of Gabon and also the city in which the CAR government and the rebels had struck a now-tattered peace deal in 2007. The peace talks, organized by the Economic Community of Central African States, is expected to start next week, but the exact date has not yet been decided, CAR Territorial Administration Minister Josue Binoua said Thursday morning. - Xinhua