CAR’s ex-rebels return to camps after day of protest

2014-11-14 16:04

Bangui - Former Muslim rebels who held sway for 10 months in the Central African Republic returned on Friday to two camps in the capital after a rowdy protest against plans to return them to distant homes.

The protesters were members of the Seleka rebel alliance that ousted president Francois Bozize in March 2013 and placed in power Michel Djotodia, who was forced to step down in January under international pressure.

Dozens of the ex-combatants on Thursday burst out of the military camps, where they were quartered with the help of French and African military forces as a transitional regime was formed. Most were unarmed, but some carried hand grenades.

Many civilians living close to the camps fled for fear of the kind of brutal violence that wracked the city for months. Others barricaded themselves into their homes, while the day-long demonstration paralysed public transport.

Soldiers of the UN task force MINUSCA, along with French troops and men from a European Union force known as EUFOR-RCA, deployed on Thursday in large numbers to contain the protesters.

Numerous Seleka fighters fled Bangui when faced with French and African troops who intervened to help stem widespread unrest and serious human rights abuses, while disarming rebels and their armed vigilante foes.

Bloody aftermath

Most headed to native regions in the north of the desperately poor, landlocked country, in operations arranged by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The relocations are due to be followed up by a Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reinsertion programme, with backing from the international community.

This week, one ex-Seleka diehard among roughly 1 000 still in Bangui denounced the IOM for giving men willing to leave 10 000 CFA francs ($19) apiece with a small kit of supplies, saying this was far from enough.

"For now, we need at least 500 000 CFA for every combatant," the renegade was quoted as saying by the local press on Tuesday, threatening that he and his men were prepared to set their makeshift home in Camp Beal ablaze.

Many of those who demonstrated on Thursday want to settle permanently in the capital rather than be transported elsewhere.

The Seleka rebellion and its bloody aftermath pushed an already unstable country into its worst ever crisis in terms both of security and politics.

The CAR is today under internationally backed interim rule, with a view to restoring democracy and rebuilding a ravaged nation.