Central African Republic: Seleka rebel coalition take capital Bangui - 170,000 displaced in CAR and others fleeing to Chad and DR Congo - CAR President Bozize is said to have fled to DR Congo (UPDATE 1: CAR president flees to Cameroon)
Also, according to the below copied report from BBC News, a Paris-based rebel spokesman Eric Massi told AFP news agency that the rebels had secured Bangui and military camps and were deploying across the capital "to launch security operations and prevent looting". But Amy Martin of the UN's humanitarian agency, OCHA, told the BBC World Service that looting was happening - and more than 170,000 estimated to have been displaced within CAR and others fleeing to Chad and the DRC. South African peacekeepers in CAR to support government troops suffered casualties but failed to stop the rebel advance. Observers say CAR's President Francois Bozize kept his army weak because he was afraid of a military coup. He came to power himself in a coup in 2003. CAR, which has a population of about 4.5 million, has been hit by a series of rebellions since independence from France in 1960.
Report from SKY News, published on Sunday, 24 March 2013; 1:21pm UK. Copy in full:
Central African Republic: Rebels Take Capital
- The President of the poor but resource-rich central African state is forced to flee as the Seleka rebel coalition seizes Bangui.
- Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken control of the capital and forced the president to flee, according to sources.
There was no independent confirmation, but the account was confirmed by government officials on Sunday morning.
Eric Massi, a spokesman for Seleka, told Reuters by telephone from Paris: "The palace has just fallen. We have the palace."
Presidency spokesman Gaston Mackouzangba confirmed: "The rebels control the town. I hope there will not be any reprisals."
France announced on Sunday afternoon it would be sending another 350 troops to the country to join the 250 already there.
The rebels fought their way to the northern suburbs of the riverside capital late on Saturday before an overnight lull in the fighting.
Residents said heavy weapons fire erupted across the city around 8am local time (0700 GMT) on Sunday.
Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, a Seleka spokesman in Bangui, told the AFP newswire the rebels were planning to move on to the national radio station where rebel leader Michel Djotodia would make an address.
Col Narkoyo said: "Today will be decisive. We call on our brothers in FACA (the Central African army) to lay down their arms."
Seleka had seized several towns across Central African Republic (CAR) in December but stopped their advance and signed a peace accord with the government.
A week ago, the two-month-old peace deal collapsed as the rebels in the notoriously unstable but resource-rich former French colony ignored a call for talks to avoid a "bloodbath".
The conflict sent terrified residents of Bangui fleeing into the surrounding countryside.
One witness told AFP: "We heard gunfire everywhere in the city centre. It was chaos. Everyone started running in all directions."
Paris-based rebel spokesman Eric Massi said the rebel leadership was urging its forces on the ground to refrain from "looting or score-settling with the local population".
The French have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the deteriorating situation.
France has not issued an evacuation order, but its estimated 1,250 nationals in the country were advised to stay at home.
It is expected that the 350 extra troops being sent to join the 250 French troops already in the country may be redeployed from Mali, where France has been fighting an Islamist insurgency.
The UN Security Council on Friday voiced strong concern about the rebel advances "and their humanitarian consequences" amid reports of widespread summary executions, rapes, torture and the use of children in conflict.
CAR regularly languishes closes to the bottom of the lists of the world's poorest countries despite extensive deposits of uranium, crude oil, gold and diamonds.
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Report from BBC News, published on Sunday, 24 March 2013; 4:09pm UK. Copy in full:
Central African Republic: President Bozize flees Bangui
- Rebels are reported to have seized the presidential palace
- Francois Bozize came to power in a coup in 2003
Witnesses reported gunfire as the Seleka rebel coalition took the presidential palace, followed by chaos and looting in the city centre.
Mr Bozize arrived with his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese official said.
The rebels, involved in an on-off rebellion since December, say Mr Bozize failed to honour a peace deal.
On Sunday, witnesses and government officials confirmed that they had taken control of Bangui.
South African peacekeepers in CAR to support government troops suffered casualties but failed to stop the rebel advance.
Justin Kombo Moustapha, secretary-general of Seleka, appealed for calm and called on citizens to "welcome the revolutionary forces of Seleka".
"Central African Republic has just opened a new page in its history," he said in a statement.
Nelson Ndjadder of Seleka's CPSK faction said the country should now move into a transition towards democratic elections.
"With the taking of Bangui and the departure of Bozize, the main objective of our struggle has been realised," he said.
"Central Africans must meet around a table to decide the path for their common future."
A Paris-based rebel spokesman Eric Massi told AFP news agency that the rebels had secured Bangui and military camps and were deploying across the capital "to launch security operations and prevent looting".
But Amy Martin of the UN's humanitarian agency, OCHA, told the BBC World Service that looting was happening.
"The situation in town is chaotic in the sense than communities are looting properties, private properties, even a paediatric hospital we understand has been looted," she said.
"Our main concern right now is at the community level, with the looting and the possible tensions between various ethnic groups."
South African troops retreated to their barracks and were seeking safe passage to the airport, Ms Martin said.
She added that Bangui been without power since Saturday, and that this meant water had also been cut.
She also said the situation in the interior thought to be worse than in the capital, more than 170,000 estimated to have been displaced within the country and others fleeing to Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said Mr Bozize's wife, children and other relatives had fled to the Congolese town of Zongo.
Mr Bozize also travelled to Zongo, from where he was expected to be moved with his family to the district capital of Gemena, a Congolese official told the BBC.
UN officials said 26,000 people had arrived in Zongo from CAR, and the numbers were rapidly increasing.
Former colonial power France has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
It has sent 350 soldiers to ensure the security of its citizens, a senior official told AFP, bringing the total number of French troops in CAR to nearly 600.
"I call upon all sides to show the greatest restraint," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, urging French nationals to stay at home.
The UN Security Council voiced concern about the rebel advance on Friday, amid reports of killings, rapes and torture.
The rebels joined a power-sharing government in January after talks brokered by regional leaders to end a rebellion they launched last year.
But the deal quickly collapsed, with the rebels saying their demands, including the release of political prisoners, had not been met.
Observers say Mr Bozize kept the army weak because he was afraid of a military coup.
He came to power himself in a coup in 2003.
CAR, which has a population of about 4.5 million, has been hit by a series of rebellions since independence from France in 1960.
It is one of the poorest countries in Africa, despite its considerable mineral resources.
CAR rebels 'enter capital Bangui'
23 March 2013, BBC Africa
Longing for peace
12 January 2013, BBC Africa
Q&A: CAR rebellion
11 January 2013, BBC Africa
From other news sites:
Jakarta Post: C. African Republic president flees rebel attack
12 hrs ago [Sunday, 24 March 2013]
Yahoo! UK and Ireland (AFP): C.African rebels vow to respect peace deal
12 hrs ago [Sunday, 24 March 2013]
Reuters UK UPDATE 2: C.African Republic capital falls to rebels, Bozize flees
13 hrs ago [Sunday, 24 March 2013]
Guardian.co.uk: Central African Republic president flees as rebels enter Bangui
13 hrs ago [Sunday, 24 March 2013]
Telegraph: Central African rebels call for president to leave as they enter capital
29 hrs ago [Saturday, 23 March 2013 - Agence France-Presse in Bangui]
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UPDATE 1 on Monday, 25 March 2013; 3:15pm UK:
C. African Republic president flees to Cameroon
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (Associated Press) - The president of CAR fled to neighboring Cameroon on Monday, as the rebels who overthrew him began squabbling who would now lead the impoverished nation long wracked by rebellions. The government of Cameroon confirmed Monday [25 March] that Bozize is seeking "temporary" refuge there before leaving for another unspecified country. Full story at: http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/story/21782944/c-african-rebel-consider-me-head-of-state
Situation in the Central African Republic
WASHINGTON, 25 March 2013/(APO)/ - US Department of State Press Statement: http://appablog.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/situation-in-the-central-african-republic-2/
Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic
NEW YORK, 25 March 2013/ (APO)/ – The Secretary-General condemns the unconstitutional seizure of power that took place in the Central African Republic (CAR) on 24 March 2013 and calls for the swift restoration of constitutional order. He reiterates that the Libreville Agreements, negotiated by the Heads of States and Government of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), remain the most viable framework to ensure durable peace and stability in the country. Full story at: http://appablog.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/statement-attributable-to-the-spokesperson-for-the-secretary-general-on-the-situation-in-the-central-african-republic/
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