Central African Republic Coup: Rebels Seize Presidential Palace, Immediately Begin Infighting
Rebel leaders overthrew Central African Republic's (CAR) President Francois Bozize on Sunday, taking control of the country's capital Bangui and the presidential palace. Bozize took control via a military coup in 2003. His whereabouts are unknown as of now, but the rebel group Seleka promises that this overthrow in CAR has "opened a new page in its history." However, considering the country's long history of rebellion and government overthrows and coups, it is pertinent that the international community keeps a close eye on the nation as events unfold to ensure that it doesn't fall prey to the mass-violence seen in its neighboring countries, Sudan and Congo — starting with France, from whom CAR gained independence from in 1960, in the lead.
Seleka Secretary General Justin Kombo Moustapha said in a statement that "The political committee of the Seleka coalition, made up of Central Africans of all kinds, calls on the population to remain calm and to prepare to welcome the revolutionary forces of Seleka."
However, despite this show of calm and what seems to be a united front, the rebel group itself is divided as to who will become the next head of state. One of the Seleka leaders, Michel Djotodia, said on Monday that he is the new head of state. However, another rebel leader, Nelson N'Jaadder, told reporters that he does not consider Djotodia to be the new leader of CAR and that he will challenge Djotodia if he attempts to grab all of the power.
"We do not recognize him as president," N'Jaader said, "I have enough soldiers loyal to me to attack Djotodia. I am planning to take the Wednesday flight to Bangui."
Meanwhile, Secretary-General of the U.N Ban K-moon has condemned this unconstitutional seizure of power, and is calling for the swift restoration and respect for law and order.
"[Mr. Ban] is concerned by the dire humanitarian situation in the country and the reports of ongoing looting in the capital, Bangui, including of United Nations property," said a statement released by the UN.
Conversely, instead of condemning this undemocratic and unconstitutional seizure of power, the U.S. is seemingly acknowledging the rebel group as the new leadership of CAR. A statement released by the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said, "We urgently call on the Seleka leadership which has taken control of Bangui to establish law and order in the city and to restore basic services of electricity and water."
The French president Hollande took a similar tone as the U.S., not condemning the rebel leaders but insisting that they "remain calm and hold talks on a national unity government."
However, the rebel group is doing anything but that. Although the group has said it had decided beforehand to announce an 18-month transition of power before holding peaceful elections, as of now their invasion has been marred heavy gunfire and looting by the rebels.
As of now, 250 French troops are present in Bangui, and they plan to send more to bolster protection. It is important that France takes the lead in providing security before the country falls to even more chaos and violence.