Probe leader's death – CPJP
Libreville - A rebel group active in the Central African Republic has called for an international probe "to clarify the situation" of its leader, Charles Massi, whose family claims he was tortured to death.
In a statement received on Monday, the "Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) noted with regret the inaction" of the international community, after Massi's alleged death on January 8.
The CPJP said foreign nations were "reluctant to become energetically involved" in finding out what happened to Massi, the leader of their political council and a former government minister.
The statement was signed on Sunday by Assan M'Bringa Togbo, the secretary general and spokesperson of the CPJP, which has clashed with the army in the northwest of the CAR since February 2009.
The CPJP urged France and international organisations to pressure the Bangui authorities to force them "at least to tell the truth or accept the setting up of an international inquiry to shed light" on Massi's fate.
The rebels "reserved the right to use all means at (their) disposal to force those who are involved, directly or indirectly, to tell the truth about what happened to Colonel Massi".
But they proposed to "be conciliatory and moderate to offer the chance of a peaceful outcome" after the disappearance of their leader.
Massi's family and his party, the Democratic Forum for Modernity (FODEM), say they have heard from several sources that the rebel chief was arrested in Chad on December 19 and returned to the CAR at the end of December.
‘Let people search’
According to these sources, who reportedly include aides to President Francoise Bozize, Massi died at Bossombele, 150 kilometres northwest of the capital Bangui, on January 8 after being tortured.
The Bangui government has dismissed the allegations as "lies".
On Sunday, speaking to Radio France Internationale (RFI) on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Bozize said he did not know whether Massi was alive or dead.
Massi "chose rebellion, he chose to live in an environment where people communicate with Kalashnikovs. Let people search where he can be found, with the rebels," Bozize said.
Asked whether Massi was dead or alive, Bozize said, "I don't know."
When the journalist recalled that Massi's wife had said he was dead, an exasperated Bozize snapped, "His wife is perhaps better placed (to know)."
Massi, 57, has served in the governments of President Ange-Felix Patasse and of Bozize, who ousted Patasse in March 2003.
His CPJP has not signed up to a peace process in the country and battled the army several times in 2009 in the Ndele region.
Patasse has called for an international fact-finding panel to establish the truth surrounding the reports of Massi's death.