Profile of Central African Republic rebel coalition fighting to topple Bozize
BBC Monitoring Africa
January 01, 2013
People wait in line at the BSIC bank in in Bangui December 31, 2012. Central African Republic`s embattled President Francois Bozize said on Sunday he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defences to within striking distance of the capital Bangui. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Excerpt from report by Francis Kpatinde entitled “Central African Republic: For whom does Seleka work” published by Radio France Internationale website on 31 December
Led by a mixed structure in which rebel groups from various shades of opinion are represented, the anti-Bozize coalition could, if it wins the war, quite quickly find itself dealing with divisions within its own ranks and the personal ambitions of its own leaders.
Who are the unseen faces behind the group known under the generic name Seleka (coalition in Sango, popular Central African language)? It is a coalition of dissident rebel factions which are offshoots of well-known armed political groups and recently-created groups. Their common objective currently is to topple Central African President Francois Bozize, whom they accuse of not honouring his commitments in the peace agreement he signed in 2007.
Among the traditional movements in the armed struggle are the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), and the Democratic Forces of the People of Central African Republic (FDPC). These three groups were joined in Seleka (which was recently formed) by two groups which were hitherto unknown to the general public: the Kodro Salvation Patriotic Convention (CPSK, kodro meaning country, in Sango), and the Alliance for Renaissance and Rebuilding (A2R), a group that has until now remained discrete, if not clandestine, bringing together hostile military officers who, it appears, waited for the “right moment” to come out in public. “Only a few weeks ago, little was known about Seleka and even some of the groups that belong to it,” confirms a former prime minister who spoke to us on the telephone from Bangui.
Charles Massi`s legacy
The CPJP, which was created in late 2008, is led upon joining Seleka, by Gen Noureddine Adam. The group was active in the country`s north-east and its political wing was led by military doctor Charles Massi, who held several ministerial posts and died in January 2010 following suspected torture a few weeks after his arrest along the Chadian border and subsequent rendition to Central African authorities. His son Eric Neris-Massi, a computer and social media guru, serves as Seleka spokesman and international coordinator from Paris, where he lives
Together with CPJP, FDPC is also part of Seleka. It is led by controversial warlord Martin Koumtamadji, who is better know by his borrowed name Abdoulaye Miskine, former President Ange-Felix Patasse`s ally who had in the last few years warmed up to Bozize and it seems hesitantly joined Seleka on 21 December, says Eric Neris-Massi, and set his men on the battle to the capital, Bangui. The FDPC rose to prominence in late 2008 and early 2009 when it carried out attacks against the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), in collaboration with another armed group.
Another veteran who holds a prominent position within Seleka is Michel Am Nondroko Djotodia, UFDR leader and former civil servant in the Ministry of Planning and then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as former consul in Nyala, main town of Sudan`s Southern Darfur Region. The UFDR, which was formed in September 2006, was before the last offensive on Bangui mainly active in the Arab-speaking administrative areas of Vagata and Haute Kotto Prefectures in the north-east. Its operations command was led by Captain Yao, real name Dramane Zacharia, who has since fallen out with his boss.
Within the UFDR there are men who helped Francois Bozize overthrow Ange-Felix Patasse in 2003 and who were not happy about the unkept promises and the failure to honour the 2007 peace agreement.
Two recently created groups complete the list of Seleka corporate members. The first one, Kodro Salvation Patriotic Convention (CPSK), was officially formed following a “constituent assembly” held on 20 and 21 June 2012 at an disclosed venue. Its founder, Mohamed-Moussa Dhaffane, became its president before being bombarded, according to the final communique with “an exceptional and honorary extra-hierarchy title of major-general assimilated from the armed forces”. Previously Dhaffane was the ad hoc president of the Central African Red Cross, while maintaining CPJP membership before leaving it to form his own group. Currently, the self-styled general is a member of Seleka with real officers formerly from FACA who are members of A2R, a clandestine group which only joined the coalition in December 2012. [Passage omitted]
Three-week march on Bangui
Following the 29 December fall of Sibut without any resistance, the rebels have only 150 km to go before reaching Bangui. A strategic bastion stands between them and the capital and that is Damara, which is held by FACA regular forces and the Central African Multi-national Forces troops. If they make it, the Seleka rebels will have achieved their objective in three weeks.
Source: Radio France Internationale website, Paris, in French 0000 gmt 31 Dec 12
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Profile of Central African little-known rebel coalition leaders
BBC Monitoring Africa
January 01, 2013
Soldiers from the Congolese contingent of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) walk as they arrive at an airport in Bangui, December 31, 2012. Central African Republic`s embattled President Francois Bozize said on Sunday he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defences to within striking distance of the capital. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Text of report by Francis Kpatinde entitled “CAR: the heirs revenge” published by Radio France Internationale website on 31 December
Seleka coalition`s two spokespersons who are its icons and visible faces, also personally have a bone to pick with President Francois Bozize whose departure they have been calling for. These are the two icons of Seleka, a coalition of armed political groups which has since 10 December 2012 been a serious headache to Central African President Francois Bozize`s regime. They are the voices of a little-known rebel group.
Eric Neris-Massi, very media savy Seleka spokesman and international coordinator, is “gracefully”, in his own words, “approaching 41” while the lesser publicly known Francois Nelson Ndjadder, coordinator-delegate for Europe, is only 22 years old. Both of them live in France from where they inform the media through media statements and interviews on military operations on the ground. They have in common a shared and sworn dislike for President Bozize, and it is for a reason.
Eric Neris-Massi lost his step father, military doctor Charles Massi, former MP and minister who died in January 2010 following presumed torture a few weeks after his arrest along the Chadian border and handover to the Central African authorities. Hot in the heels of his death, Denise Neris-Massi, her mother and second wife of the politician, died of sorrow three months following her husband`s death, leaving her son a complete orphan.
Francois Nelson Ndjadder, for his part, lost his father, Gen Francois Bedaya Ndjadder, former interior minister and director-general of the national gendarmerie under Ange-Felix Patasse`s regime, following failed coup attempt in May 2001 blamed on Francois Bozize. Since then, young Francois Nelson, who himself got a taste of prison life in 2006 at a tender age of 16 years, has nurtured resentment towards Bozize, who has become a marked man. On his Facebook page he has chosen as his “prefered motto” the popular saying: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Bozize “must account for his actions”
“Even though he took away from me the two people I cherished most, Bozize`s departure is not for me a personal matter,” reveals Eric Neris-Massi, “but he has to account for his actions to the people of the Central African Republic, for the sins that he has committed against them.”
Even though they find themselves in the fight against the current regime in Bangui and Bozize`s departure is non-negotiable for both of them, the two leading figures in Seleka are not, however, identical twins. Eric Neris-Massi, who alternates his diplomatic rhetoric with war discourse, is the real external face of Seleka. Computer geek and mixed-race son of a Central African father and French-Central African mother, who worked as manager in a Paris management and finance consultancy, Neris-Massi has an elegant look and is good with words. He admits his contacts list has direct numbers of several African heads of state, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, Idriss Deby-Itno of Chad, and Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin.
“I held a long conversation last night [Sunday 30 December] with Beninese President Boni Yayi who had just returned from his mediation visit to the Central African Republic,” he reveals in a telephone interview. “I congratulated him for the outcome of his mission and informed him about the ongoing ethnic swoops in Bangui. I also contacted the Quai d`Orsay [French Foreign Ministry] African and Indian Ocean director, Jean-Christophe Belliard.”
Francois Nelson Ndjadder, who looks like a rapper and loves music and video games, partly attended school in Chicago and seems to carry more of the stigma of successive tragedies that marked his life. He owes his freedom to the quick reaction of human rights organizations following his arrest on 18 May 2006 in Bangui at the age of 16. A photo of “Che” Guevara features prominently on his Facebook page beside the portraits of his father, wearing a gendarme kepi, and his grand-father, a decorated veteran infantryman. His media statements, unlike Eric Neris-Massi`s, end in varying fashions with the well-known revolutionary slogan: “Country or death, we shall overcome!”
Source: Radio France Internationale website, Paris, in French 0000 gmt 31 Dec 12
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Central African Republic rebels dismiss calls for negotiations, regional troops arrive
BY KRISTA LARSON AND HIPPOLYTE MARBOUA
The Canadian Press
December 31, 2012
A soldier from the Republic of Congo, operating under a multinational central-african regional mandate, stands to attention after arriving by airplane to boost existing forces, at an airport in Bangui, Central African Republic Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Rebels in the Central African Republic on Monday rejected appeals for them to halt their advances and to negotiate to form a coalition government. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
BANGUI _ President Francois Bozize`s government came under growing threat Monday as rebels vowing to overthrow him rejected appeals from the African Union to hold their advance and try to form a coalition government.
Meanwhile, dozens of troops from Republic of Congo arrived at sunset on New Year`s Eve in Bangui, the capital, as part of an effort to step up the presence of a multinational regional military force.
After disembarking from their military aircraft, the group of about 120 men was headed toward the line between government forces and a coalition of four rebel groups known as Seleka north of Bangui.
The rebels have seized control of about 10 towns in less than a month`s time, and now have moved within striking distance to the capital, a city of more than 700,000 people. The government has imposed a curfew of 7 p.m., leaving the streets largely empty on New Year`s Eve.
Soldiers from Central African Republic and a regional military force are currently in Damara, about 75 kilometres (45 miles) from Bangui. The rebels, meanwhile, are holding the city of Sibut, which is about 185 kilometres (115 miles) away.
The rebels on Monday said they did not trust Bozize`s offer to form a unity government, raising fears they could attempt confrontation with government forces in the coming days.
“We are not convinced of the commitments made by President Bozize,” said rebel spokesman Juma Narkoyo when reached by telephone. “Bozize has always spoken, but he never keeps his word.”
The rebels said they would enter negotiations “only if the head of state releases all our relatives they have arrested without reason.”
The rebels claim that Bozize has abducted more than a dozen of their family members. They warned if the president uses foreign troops to protect his government, they may continue their campaign toward the capital.
In response the rebels were told by the African Union that if they seize power they will face sanctions and Central African Republic will be suspended from the organization.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande welcomed the efforts by the AU and the group of neighbouring states to find a negotiated solution. Hollande called for “opening a dialogue between CAR authorities and all the parties present, including the rebellion.”
Hollande last week said his government would only protect French interests in CAR, but would not prop up the Bozize government.
Central African Republic has suffered many army revolts, coups and rebellions since gaining independence from France in 1960.
The rebels behind the current instability signed a 2007 peace accord allowing them to join the regular army, but insurgent leaders say the deal wasn`t fully implemented.
Neighbouring African countries have agreed to send more forces to support the Bozize government.
Representatives from the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States, or ECCAS, agreed at a meeting in Gabon on Friday to send forces to CAR, but did not did not specify how many troops would be sent or how quickly the military assistance would arrive.
The ECCAS states, with more than 500 soldiers via their regional peacekeeping force in Central Africa, warned the rebels over the weekend to halt their advances.
The neighbouring Republic of Congo sent 120 troops from Brazzaville on Monday to bolster the regional force, according to a New Year`s statement from Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso. Troops from Gabon and Cameroon also were expected in the coming days to join extra forces already sent from Chad.
The regional forces are there to help stabilize the area but “will be forced to defend ourselves” if the rebel forces open fire, said Gabriel Enteha Ebia, the Republic of Congo`s ambassador to Central African Republic.
The ongoing instability here already has prompted the United States to evacuate about 40 people, including the U.S. ambassador, from Bangui on an U.S. Air Force plane bound for Kenya, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity because they weren`t authorized to discuss the operation.
The United States has special forces troops in the country who are assisting in the hunt for Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel leader of another rebel group known as the Lord`s Resistance Army. The U.S. special forces remain in the country, the U.S. military`s Africa Command said from its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
The evacuation of the U.S. diplomats came after criticism of how the U.S. handled diplomatic security before and during the attack on its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. The ambassador and three other Americans were killed in that attack.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland expressed concern “about the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic” and called on the rebel alliance “to cease hostilities and movements towards the capital.”
At the same time, she urged the government to respect human rights, saying the U.S. is “concerned by allegations of arrests and disappearances of hundreds of individuals who are members of ethnic groups with ties to the rebel alliance.”
She urged both sides to work with the Central African economic community “to seek a political resolution to this crisis.”
China announced Monday that it is evacuating its 300 citizens from CAR, although its embassy staff will stay.
French diplomats have remained in Bangui, despite a violent demonstration outside its embassy last week. Dozens of protesters, angry at France`s lack of help against rebel forces, threw rocks at the French Embassy in Bangui and stole a French flag.
CAR, a landlocked nation of 4.4 million people, is one of the poorest countries in the world. The current president himself came to power nearly a decade ago in the wake of a rebellion in this resource-rich yet deeply poor country. Despite Central African Republic`s wealth of gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, the government remains perpetually cash-strapped.
Associated Press writer Kirubel Tadesse contributed to this report from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
© 2013 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Seleka, Central Africa`s motley rebel coalition
Agence France Presse
December 31, 2012
President of Central African Republic Francois Bozize (R) talks with the Chairman of the African Union and President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni (L) at the airport in Bangui December 30, 2012. Bozize said on Sunday he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defences to within striking distance of the capital. REUTERS/Luc Gnago.
In a matter of weeks, fighters from the Central African Republic`s Seleka rebel coalition took over large swathes of the impoverished equatorial country. Closing in on the capital Bangui, the rebels have called on President Francois Bozize to stand down.
THE ORIGIN AND MAKEUP OF A MOTLEY MOVEMENT
The rebel groups in the coalition -- Seleka means “alliance” in the country`s Sango language -- were signatories to the 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the government.
Since September, however, dissident factions of the main signatory rebel groups have banded together as Seleka.
The alliance is made up of factions of the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity, the Wa Kodro Salute Patriotic Convention and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace.
While the exact make up of the rebellion is unclear, two figures are known. One is the president, Michel Djotodia. The other, its spokesman and international coordinator Eric Neris Massi, is the son of Charles Massi, a former minister in Bozize`s administration who later opposed it and has been missing and presumed dead since 2010.
The fighters of these groups are ex-mutineers and former militiamen from earlier rebel movements hailing mainly from the north in the chronically unstable country.
Seleka numbers between 1,000 and 2,000 fighters, according to Roland Marchal, a specialist of Central African conflicts at the Paris-based National Centre for Scientific Research.
The Central African army has at most 3,500 men.
The Seleka rebels say the government has not honoured peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011 that offered financial support and other help for insurgents who laid down their arms.
As they advance on the ground, they now demand that Bozize to step down, voicing scepticism over his promised concessions.
A RAPID CONQUEST
Ill-equipped, unmotivated and poorly trained, the Central African army offered little resistance to the Seleka fighters.
Given the few cases of looting in the captured cities, it appears the group has enough funds to pay its fighters.
“The funding sources are worrisome. They are the same ones that funded the rebellions from Libya to Tunisia to Mali,” Territorial Administration Minister Jose Binoua said, implying that other countries like Chad are involved.
Some observers believe that even if the rebellion is mostly made up of former Central African rebels, it also includes “former members of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), as well as Chadian, Sudanese and Nigerian mercenaries” -- claims the rebels deny.
According to Marchal, “given the rebellion`s origins in the north, we can assume there are many Muslims in their ranks.”
The question of the fighters` nationalities comes up, but Marchal stresses that in this region “people come and go between borders that almost don`t exist.”
The presence of foreign fighters does not necessarily imply the involvement of their governments in the rebellion, he said.
A close ally of Bozize, Chad helped bring him to power in 2003 and to rid the north of rebel movements in late 2010.
Since the latest fighting began, Chad has played the mediator by hosting a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC).
The neighbouring country also sent peacekeeping troops into the Central African Republic. Yet the Chadian force -- whose size and power is unknown -- has yet to push back against the advancing rebels, fueling rumours that Bozize has been dropped by his old ally, Chadian President Idriss Deby.
© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.
Central Africa: Bozize ready to form coalition government with rebel forces
December 31, 2012
Chairman of the African Union and President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni (C) greets the French ambassador to Central Africa Republic Serge Mucetti (R) while President of Central African Republic Francois Bozize (L) looks on at the airport in Bangui December 30, 2012. Bozize said on Sunday he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defences to within striking distance of the capital. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
On 30 December, Francois Bozize President of the Central Africa Republic announced that he is willing to form a coalition government with the rebel forces, known as Seleka. “I am ready to form a government of national unity with Seleka to run the country together, because I am a democrat,” Bozize told a news conference following a meeting with African Union Chairman Thomas Yayi Boni in Bangui, capital of Central Africa Republic.
Boni Yayi added that Bozize will not run for President in 2016 and he will “respect constitutional provisions.” The current President of Central Africa seized power in a 2003 coup and then won elections twice. Chairman of the African Union underlined that the negotiations between Seleka and current governmental authorities “should lead to a national unity government.”
On the other hand, Eric Massi Seleka`s spokesman said to France 24, “I take note of his [Bozize] proposals. We need to meet to study them.” Seleka wants to review what guarantees would be offered to them, as the rebels accused the government of failing to honour a 2007 deal which included providing disarmament, pay and social reintegration for insurgents. “Know that Seleka`s aim today is not to enter into a government but to allow the people of Central African Republic to be able to drive the country towards development and self-fulfillment,” Massi concluded.
On Sunday, France deployed an additional 180 troops to Bangui, as fears remain that rebels may enter country`s capital. Until today, the total number of French forces in the country accounts to nearly 600. However, on 27 December, French President Francois Hollande clarified that France will not intervene in its former colony without UN mandate.
© 2012. New Europe.
More French Troops Go to Central African Republic
December 31, 2012
French soldiers sit in a military vehicle as they patrol a street near the presidential palace in Bangui December 31, 2012. Central African Republic`s embattled President Francois Bozize said on Sunday he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defences to within striking distance of the capital. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Bangui, Dec 31, 2012 (Angola Press Agency/All Africa Global Media) -- As rebels advance in Central African Republic, France has deployed an additional 180 troops to protect its interests.
The French reinforcements arrived Sunday from nearby Gabon, bringing the total French military force in the capital, Bangui, to nearly 600, Col. Thierry Burkhard told The Associated Press Sunday. The troops are to protect French residents in the capital, which many fear will be attacked by the rebels.
As fears mounted that the rebels would attack Bangui, a city of 600,000, President Francois Bozize imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Bozize earlier appealed to France for help against the rebels, but French President Francois Hollande`s government said it would only protect French interests and would not prop up the Bangui government.
The African Union is attempting to set up negotiations in Gabon between the Bozize government and the rebels.
The rebel forces have seized at least 10 cities across the sparsely populated north of the country. Residents in the capital now fear the insurgents could attack at any time, despite assurances by rebel leaders that they are willing to engage in dialogue instead of attacking Bangui.
© 2012 AllAfrica, All Rights Reserved