THE UNITED STATES has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic as President Francois Bozize’s appeals for French and US help against rebels who have seized much of the country fell on deaf ears Friday.
The United Nations demanded yesterday that the rebels halt their nearly three-week offensive and urged Bozize’s government to ensure the safety of civilians amid fears in the capital Bangui of a breakdown in law and order.
A statement said:
The members of the Security Council reiterate their demand that the armed groups immediately cease hostilities, withdraw from captured cities and cease any further advance towards the city of Bangui.
It also emphasised “the responsibility of the government of the Central African Republic to maintain law and order and to ensure the safety and security of the civilian population”.
Washington said it had evacuated its embassy and temporarily halted all operations there.
The State Department said it had not broken off diplomatic ties with the government, but warned US citizens not to travel to the chronically unstable country, one of the poorest on the planet.
There was no direct response from Washington to Bozize’s appeal for help although a State Department statement urged dialogue.
The United States encourages all parties in the Central African Republic to participate in the dialogue to be held under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States to develop a comprehensive agreement that will offer a new vision of peace and security for the country.
The United Nations is also pulling out its staff in response to the advances by the rebel fighters which have alarmed residents in Bangui.
“We ask our French cousins and the United States of America, the great powers, to help us to push back the rebels… to allow for dialogue in Libreville to resolve the current crisis,” Bozize, who took power in a 2003 coup, told thousands of supporters at a rally in Bangui on Thursday.
About 300 women marched on Friday to urge the rebel coalition known as Seleka, which took up arms on December 10 and has since taken a string of towns including four regional capitals, to stop fighting.
The former colonial power has however insisted it would not intervene in the CAR, which has a chequered history of coups and brutal rule since independence from France in 1960.
President Francois Hollande said on Thursday “those days are over”. In 2006, France, which supported Bozize in his rise to power, had lent logistical help and air support to fight off rebels.
Seleka has seized four regional capitals, including the diamond mining hub and garrison town of Bria. On Wednesday, demonstrators angry at France’s failure to intervene tore down the flag at the French embassy in Bangui and broke windows at the building.
France has around 250 soldiers based at Bangui airport providing technical support to a peacekeeping mission run by the central African bloc ECCAS.
As the ill-equipped Central African army proved little challenge to the insurgents, Bozize asked for help from neighbouring Chad. And with the government now largely restricted to Bangui, the contingent of Chadian troops is the only real obstacle to the rebels.
The multinational central African force known as FOMAC said yesterday that more troops were coming, but there are no details about numbers or timing.