Conflict & Justice

CAR rebels seize the presidential palace as Bozize flees


Seleka spokesman and military chief rebel, Colonel Christian Djouma Narkoyo, poses on January 18, 2013 in Grimari north of Damara, 75 kms from the capital Bangui.


Patrick Fort

Rebels in the Central African Republic have seized the presidential palace in Bangui. 

President Francois Bozize, who has a checkered history of exile, imprisonment, torture and coup bids himself, reportedly fled the country for the Republic of Congo, government officials said. 

"We have taken the presidential palace. Bozize was not there," said Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, one of the rebel commanders on the ground. 

"The rebels control the town," presidency spokesman Gaston Mackouzangba said. "I hope there will not be any reprisals."

There were reports of gunfire heard around the presidential palace Sunday morning, after the rebels moved into the town Sunday. 

The loose coalition of rebel forces is known as the Senaka rebels, and many are former opposition members of Bozize. They have since vowed to oust him, accusing the president of reneging on a peace agreement to integrate its fighters into the CAR army, Reuters reported

They were also planning to take over the radio stations, according to Reuters. 

The Senaka rebels have said they would negotiate with regional African leaders, but not Bozize, iAfrica reported

In Bangui, there are increasing concerns that looting and crime will spike as a result of the coup. 

"The situation in town is chaotic in the sense than communities are looting properties, private properties, even a pediatric hospital we understand has been looted," Amy Martin of the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA, told BBC News

"Our main concern right now is at the community level, with the looting and the possible tensions between various ethnic groups," she added. 

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