CAR leaders prepare for talks with rebels

2013-01-03 22:37
CAR President Francois Bozize (File, AFP)

CAR President Francois Bozize (File, AFP)

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Bangui - The government in the Central African Republic was preparing on Thursday to go to peace talks with rebels in Libreville, while the military situation on the ground remained stable.

President Francois Bozize's regime has begun to make allegations about the rebels and their leadership ahead of negotiations to start in Gabon's capital on January 8 between the authorities and the Seleka alliance of three rebel movements.

Meanwhile, Seleka has halted its offensive at Sibut, 160km from Bangui, with both sides held in check by an international intervention force.

The African Multinational Force in Central Africa (Fomac), strong in Chadian troops as well as soldiers from Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, has warned against crossing a "red line" at Damara, 75km north of Bangui.

‘Foreign rebels’

On Thursday Territorial Administration Minister Josue Binoua accused the rebel alliance of consisting mainly of foreigners from Chad, Sudan and Libya, and of preaching a strict form of Islam.

"If some leaders of this rebellion are genuine Centrafricans, the same is not true of the majority of the troops, who very largely consist of the Toro Boro, Sudanese rebels from Darfur," Binoua told AFP and Radio France Internationale.

"There are residual forces of (Chadian rebel) Mahamat Nouri, who has been expelled from Khartoum. Plus other fighters of Libyan morphology," he added.

The Toro Boro in Darfur, a region in western Sudan bordering on Chad, and the Chadian rebels led by Nouri, have been largely inactive since relations improved between Chad and Sudan and peace accords were signed in 2010.

Before then, Sudan and Chad regularly clashed by proxy, by backing rebel groups.

"Mr (Moussa Mohammed) Dhaffane and Nourredine (Younous Adim Birema), who are the two main leaders of this rebellion, studied in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar. They preach the (Islamic) Wahabite faith to whomever wants to listen. They preach it," Binoua said.

Wahabism is a strict Sunni version of Islam with origins in Saudi Arabia.

"This is why the government denounces with all its strength this movement by the rebels to a religious war. Our question remains intact, regarding their real aim and their real motive," Binoua added.

‘Rebels paid as people watch’

He charged that the rebels "are paid in full view and knowledge of the populations in occupied zones in dollars, with money that their leaders bring (...). The Seleka rebellion makes a show of its military arsenal, which has a cost. Who provided the money?"

Bozize's government has several times alleged that the rebels are backed by foreign aggressors.

A confidential government note, consulted by AFP, said that Younous Adim Birema, "son of an imam" from Bangui, is "a former student at the Islamic University of Medina" in Saudi Arabia.

"It is he who, by way of funds collected in the Gulf countries where he has ties, financed this renewal of the rebellion," the note charged.

President’s son sacked

The territorial administration minister also queried the origins and motives of rebel co-ordinator Eric Neris-Massi.

"The government wishes - with the prospect of a national unity government after the negotiations - to have clear explanations about somebody who does not have the nationality of the country, calls into question the legitimacy of the authorities and co-ordinates a movement that destabilises institutions," Binoua said.

Bozize on Wednesday sacked his own son Jean-Francis from the post of defence minister and took personal charge of the portfolio.

According to a security source, Jean-Francis was "punished for his nonchalance". The decision should enable the president, a former general, to take charge of matters by boosting the confidence of his troops, the source added.

For Bozize's main political foe, former prime minister Martin Ziguele, this dismissal was "the least of things" after the routing of the Central African armed forces, who lost all their clashes with the rebels.

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