Rebels patrol Central African Republic capital

March 26, 2013

Teams of rebels patrolled the capital of the Central African Republic on Tuesday after aid groups said their facilities had been looted and robbed in the aftermath of the weekend coup that ousted the country’s president of a decade.

The efforts to restore order to Bangui, a city of 700,000, came as a rebel leader declared himself the new president and announced that he would stay in power for three years.

Continuing violence in the country was preventing critically wounded patients from getting the help they needed, according to the French medical aid group Doctors Without Borders.

More than 1,000 armed rebels attacked Bangui on Saturday, forcing longtime President Francois Bozize into exile in neighboring Cameroon. The fierce fighting left at least 13 South African soldiers dead and an uncounted number of civilian casualties.

It was the latest political turmoil to destabilize the Central African Republic, a country where leaders since independence from France in 1960 have come to power or been ousted in a series of coups and rebellions.

On Monday, rebel leader Michel Djotodia made his first public declaration since overthrowing Bozize, stating that he planned to stay in power until 2016.

The leader of the rebel coalition known as Seleka justified the coup by saying that Bozize had veered into dictatorship during his 10 years in power.

“Through us, it was the entire population of Central African Republic that rose up as a single man against the president,” Djotodia said, according to Radio France Internationale.

Meanwhile, French forces protecting Bangui’s main airport opened fire on three cars that were speeding toward a security checkpoint, the French Defense Ministry said.

The cars, carrying Indian and Chadian citizens, continued despite warning shots. Two Indian citizens were killed, and the wounded Indian and Chadian passengers were taken for medical care, the defense minister said in the statement Monday.

France is investigating the shooting, the statement said.

The rebels’ advance started last week when they pushed past Damara, a town 47 miles to the northeast. Damara had marked the line of control drawn by regional forces in January, following an accord signed in Libreville, the capital of Gabon.

The rebels broke that accord last week, claiming that Bozize’s government had failed to make good on several promises, including sending back the South African troops guarding the capital.

— Associated Press

Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.

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