CAR leaders and rebels to hold talks


Delegations representing Central African Republic’s government and the rebels who now control much of the country’s northern region, are meeting in Gabon to hold peace talks. The peace talks, which will begin on Tuesday in Libreville, Gabon, come a month after fighters from several armed groups began their rebellion against a government that has wielded little power over its vast and sparsely populated north. A spokesman of the rebel alliance, collectively known as Seleka, reiterated calls on Monday for the removal of President Francois Bozize, saying he has “lost all credibility” to lead the country. “He has to leave power,” Eric Massi, a rebel spokesman, said in an interview with Al Jazeera from Paris. But even before the talks could start, Massi already rejected Bozize’s offer to form a coalition government with the rebels. Instead Massi called for a “peaceful transfer of power, in order to preserve the peace and security of all the citizens of the capital”. “If he [Bozize] had it at the beginning of the conflict, it would have been a great solution,” Massi said, adding that now that the rebels are close to the capital, it might be too late for the president to make the offer. Advance halted Massi confirmed that rebel groups have already advanced as far as 10km from the buffer zone between rebels and the forces from Chad. While the rebels have halted their advance towards the capital Bangui, a city of 700,000 people, they now hold a dozen communities. The rebellion has posed the greatest threat to Bozize’s presidency since he himself seized power in 2003. Some residents of this nation of 4.4 million have little faith the government will be able to reach a lasting agreement with the rebels, especially given that multiple peace accords already have been signed over the years with multiple groups. While the rebels had vowed to halt their advance pending the negotiations, residents said two communities were seized over the weekend. In Bangui, the presence of regional troops who have been sent from Gabon, Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Chad to help stabilise the country has reassured residents.