Sunday, January 06, 2013

CAR Rebels Capture More Towns

Central Africa rebels capture more towns

by Patrick Fort
January 06, 20133:46PM

CENTRAL African Republic rebels have captured two more towns overnight, just days before talks are due to open on the crisis in the impoverished country, an official says.

"The rebels took two towns near Bambari", a town already under the control of the Seleka rebel coalition, Territorial Administration Minister Josue Binoua said on Saturday.

"This shows their intent to wage war even during negotiations," he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the rebels about the claim.

Binoua's statement came just days before the central African regional bloc CEEAC hopes to start hosting talks between the rebels and President Francois Bozize in an effort to solve the nearly month-long crisis in the mineral-rich but impoverished and unstable country.

The rebels threw those plans into doubt on Friday when they contradicted claims by CEEAC officials that they had agreed to the talks due to begin in Gabon's capital Libreville on Tuesday, saying they had not been informed of the initiative by the Economic Community of Central African States.

On Saturday, Binoua said the talks, which have the support of the UN Security Council and the United States, would proceed as planned.

"There will be three delegations of 15 members each - the government, rebels and opposition," he said.

Bozize will head the government delegation while the opposition will be led by the lawyer Nicolas Tiangaye, he added.

The rebels, who charge that Bozize has not abided by terms of earlier peace deals, launched an offensive on December 10 in the north and easily overran an ill-equipped and poorly trained army, marching across a large part of the country before halting their push within striking distance of the capital Bangui, in the southwest.

Rebel troops were stationed at Sibut, some 160 kilometres from the capital.

Unrest in the landlocked equatorial country has alarmed the country's neighbours and the international community, with the UN Security Council twice calling on Seleka to halt its offensive and engage in peace talks.

Meanwhile, central African nations have begun sending reinforcements to Damara, the last major town between the rebels and the capital, to bolster the army against the rebels.

The violence in the country has affected more than 300,000 children, including through recruitment as child soldiers, family separation, sexual violence and forced displacement, UNICEF has said.

The Central African Republic, with a population of about five million, is notorious for unrest including coups, army mutinies and rebellions.

Bozize himself took power in a coup in 2003 and has since been twice elected into office.

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