CAR leader preparing to step down: reports
President Michel Djotodia due to meet regional leaders in Chad against backdrop of religious unrest sweeping the nation.
The president of the Central African Republic, where more than a thousand people have died in recent violence, is preparing to step down.
According to a Voice of America report he isn't.
CAR information minister Adrien Poussou says President Michel Djotodia requested the meeting to discuss transforming the African intervention force in CAR into a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
He says the interim leader will also update the regional bloc on security in the capital, Bangui, and that reports by the French foreign ministry that indicate participants will discuss whether Djotodia should remain in power are false.
My feeling is that Djotodia is toast. I blogged in late December:
Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, Cameroon and the DR Congo are largely Christian nations and they appear acceptable to the Christian majority but they spell the end of the interim regime of President Djotodia.
Michel Djotodia, who deposed Francois Bozize in a coup last March, is due to meet regional leaders in Chad on Thursday to resolve the turmoil sweeping the country.
It wasn't a coup. It was a rebel takeover.
And then, as soon as Bozize was ousted in March, Paris declined an African request to send more troops and drew down its troop numbers, saying it was up to Africans to do the job."
Reporting from Bangui, CAR's capital, on Wedneday, Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips said: "We know the president has left the country and is on his way to the summit. There is a consensus that President Djotodia is not part of the solution to the country's terrible problems.
"His short spell in power has been nothing short of disastrous. The French want him out; they are very important players and always have been.
The French have made their stance fairly clear, again from Reuters:
" The message was clear. The old ways of doing business - a mix of post-colonial graft and patronage called "Francafrique" and which suited dictators and France alike - were over.
Paris will no longer prop up dictators or back rebellions and will seek U.N. mandates and consult African leaders before intervening."
That leaves Djotodia very little wriggle room at all. In April regional leaders made their feelings fairly clear.
" N'DJAMENA - African heads of state on Wednesday refused to recognise rebel leader Michel Djotodia's self-appointment as president of Central African Republic, calling instead for the creation of a new transitional body to guide the country to elections."
Djotodia eventually received recognition as transitional President in April there was little the regional leaders could do at the time I blogged.
" Isolates him from who ? He owns the capital and unless someone wants to dispute that is the the Status Quo. He has guns soldiers and the loyalty of the armed forces and police. I blogged a week ago.
" Given that former president Bozize has fled and that the security apparatus including the army and police have pledged loyalty to the rebel regime. there is no substantive response available."
"There is a lot of disillusionment across the region and not much patience out there."
In an interview with Al Jazeera, J. Peter Pham, Africa Center director of the Atlantic Council, said Djotodia had lost "whatever minimal base" he had in the country.
The problem is that he was never able to divest himself of the Seleka rebels and broaden his constituency. The rebels are seen as Somali and Chadian invaders and that is exactly how they behaved.
Despite the denials of his Information Minister Adrien Poussou in the VOA report above it is inevitable that the meeting of regional leaders will consider his position and this time, unlike in April last year they are in a position to do something about it. I doubt he can last much more than another week so a deal will be done in Chad.
CAR has been plunged into chaos as the country's Christian majority seeks revenge against Muslim rebels, with the fighting between religious groups intensifying in December.
"The Muslims knocked on our door and asked us, 'do you have any guns?," she told me. "We said no, but they took my son out and they shot him. They shot all of our sons, one by one."
" However, aid workers with long experience here believe that power is seeping away from the Seleka, partly because some are from neighbouring Chad and are returning home.
One aid worker spoke of a growing Christian backlash against the Muslim population (a minority here) threatening truly awful bloodshed on a scale not yet seen."
UN officials have told the Security Council that the country is on the brink of a catastrophe, with half the population made homeless since ethnic warfare broke out.
Jeffrey Feltman, UN political affairs chief, told the world body on Monday that about 2.2 million people - about half the total population - throughout the country need assistance.
Interestingly we have this from Reuters on the distribution of food by aid workers at Bangui Airport:
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangui Monsignor Dieudonne Nzapalainga photo BBC
"The airport site is very complex. It isn't easy to manage more than 100,000 people. We tried it twice before and each time it was a failure," Catholic Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga told Reuters.
This time "we dared to say to people to organize themselves to respond to the appeal of aid workers and help them to do their work," said Nzapalainga, who attended the distribution."
About half the people in Bangui - a total of about 513,000 - have been driven from their homes, he said.
An estimated 100,000 people have sought shelter at a makeshift camp at the airport near the city.
The airport has 100,000 Christian refugees. They are at the airport because it is protected by peacekeepers but there isn't enough food. There will be no harvest in the CAR this year.
A report in late December by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, reported 600 deaths in Bangui in those attacks, and Feltman put the current total at "750 casualties".
"The death toll outside Bangui is likely to be substantial," he said.
"Killings in Bangui and the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation."
It is fairly clear where this is heading. Djotodia might well decide to remain in Chad after the meeting in Chad. Religious genocide might well be on the agenda in Bangui.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
CAR: " I've seen a different doorway shut a million times before "
Al Jazeera reports