Fears of food shortages after CAR coup

March 28, 2013 4:02 pm


People watch Seleka coalition rebels as they search for people suspected of looting in Bangui on March 26, 2013/AFP
People watch Seleka coalition rebels as they search for people suspected of looting in Bangui on March 26, 2013/AFP
BANGUI, Central African Republic, Mar 28 – New rebel authorities in the Central African Republic struggled to restore order in the coup-hit capital on Thursday as the UN warned tens of thousands of people faced going hungry after days of looting.

Drinking water and electrical power were still cut off in parts of Bangui after Michel Djotodia and his Seleka coalition seized the city on Sunday, forcing president Francois Bozize to flee.

“The crisis (…) has worsened an already difficult humanitarian situation,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned in a statement.

In Bangui, “prevailing insecurity is hampering humanitarian efforts and the provision of help and notably medical assistance,” OCHA said.

The situation in the northern and central regions was “particularly worrying”, the UN said, where “more than 80,000 people are in danger” of running out of food.

OCHA said that since December, an estimated 173,000 people have been displaced within the country of 4.5 million people.

In a sign that rebels were seeking to maintain some stability, Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye – who was named premier under peace accords signed in Gabon’s capital Libreville in January – said on Wednesday he had been reappointed. A new government is now expected to be formed.

Seleka spokesman Christophe Gazam Betty pledged Thursday after a meeting with Djotodia and senior officers of both the Seleka and the security forces that normal life would resume by early next week.

“We are going to relaunch economic and administrative life by Tuesday at the latest,” Gazam Betty said, adding that “the president” Djotodia had urged army and police units to work with rebels to reopen service stations and provide security at banks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported Wednesday that its depots in the country had been stripped by armed looters, who also ransacked shops and businesses in the tense days after the coup.

Residents in the capital were fearful of returning to work despite a call by new strongman Djotodia for people to do so.

Hospitals tried to get up and running without doctors, and sometimes still no electricity. OCHA coordinator Zakaria Maiga stressed that the lack of power made medical care difficult and urged staff to deliver what care they could.

Rebels of the Seleka – which means “alliance” – were seeking to restore security by patrolling with the help of the regional FOMAC military force deployed in the country by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

But according to Tiangaye, a respected lawyer and former human rights activist who was a foe of Bozize, people pretending to be with the Seleka were causing trouble.

“Many people, false Seleka members, are at large in the town terrorising the population and bandits have become mixed up in it, and this therefore only worsens the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad, who currently chairs ECCAS, announced Thursday that a regional summit on the crisis will be held on April 3 in N’Djamena, according to Chadian national radio.

Djotodia, an enigmatic Soviet-trained figure who spent years as a civil servant and diplomat before founding a rebel movement in 2005, said on Monday he intended to keep Tiangaye as premier.

The coup leader, who dissolved parliament and announced he would rule by decree, has stressed he would abide by the spirit of national unity enshrined in the Libreville deal.

Tiangaye has said he will soon unveil an inclusive cabinet line-up. “The context has changed but the players are the same,” he said.

After a first offensive in December which ended in the Libreville peace deal, the Seleka forces seized Bangui Sunday, ousting Bozize on the grounds that his regime had failed to honour that peace agreement. Bozize, who himself came to power in a coup in 2003, fled to Cameroon.

Djotodia has said fresh elections would not be held for another three years and did not rule himself out of the polls.


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