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CAR president calls on militias to disarm
December 22, 2013, 5:24 am

President Michel Djotodia has twice called on militia to return to their barracks and disarm [Xinhua]

President Michel Djotodia has twice called on militia to return to their barracks and disarm [Xinhua]

Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia on Saturday called on Muslim militia, which helped bring him to power, to exercise restraint and lay down their arms as renewed fighting was reported in the capital Bangui.

Local media reported on Friday that at least 30 people were killed during clashes between Muslim and Christian militias.

Two leading human rights organisations have also urged the UN to increase the number of armed peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) saying that thousands of people have been killed and injured in the past two weeks.

They both said that the death toll in fighting last week was at least 1,000 – more than double the figures initially reported, and that crimes against humanity may have been committed, including people hacked to death and entire villages razed to the ground.

Their appeal came as Reuters reported that fresh violence on this week appeared to break the relative calm that had prevailed since French troops in the capital Bangui began to police the city and disarm militias.

But the French presence may not be enough.

On Friday, French President Francois Hollande urged his European allies to contribute troops to help stabilise the country. A number of countries are already providing logistical support, but a joint European peacekeeping mission won’t be decided until late January.

In early December, the UN Security Council authorised French troops to use force to quell the violence.

The current crisis in CAR – a mineral rich nation of 4.6 million people – began in December 2012 when Seleka – a rebel amalgamation of several different factions – began to move toward Bangui in hopes of removing Bozize, a military officer who seized power in 2003 and has been elected president twice since then.

Analysts say that the rebel gains underscore the instability and extreme poverty that has plagued the country since independence from Paris in 1960 despite possessing vast agricultural, water and mineral resources, including uranium, gold and diamonds. The average monthly income is around $60.

In January, a ceasefire was reached and an UN-sponsored peace process led to the formation of a unity government in which the president was allowed to remain in office till 2016, provided top ministerial positions went to members of the Seleka Coalition.

However, on March 23, the Coalition broke the national unity agreement and seized the capital Bangui. In the fighting, 13 South African peace-keeping soldiers were killed and 27 others wounded during a clash with the rebels. South Africa withdrew its forces.

Source: Agencies