BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic’s leader is calling on his fighters to restore public order as anger mounts over pillaging in the capital more than a month after they seized power.
In an address televised late Wednesday, Michel Djotodia also called on police and security forces to return to their jobs in an effort to help stabilize the volatile country.
“Weapons should be silenced. I want public order to be reestablished across the nation and for security to return to Central African Republic,” he said.
Thousands fighters belonging to a rebel coalition known as Seleka overtook the capital in late March, overthrowing the president of a decade who fled to Cameroon. Djotodia was later chosen to lead an interim transitional government that is promising elections in 18 months’ time. That concession has failed to satisfy the international community, though, and the United States maintains the only “legitimate” leader in Central African Republic is the prime minister who retained his post even after Djotodia took power by force.
The International Crisis Group said Wednesday that the security situation has “significantly deteriorated” in Bangui.
“So far, however, the Seleka leadership has been unable or unwilling to bring its fighters under control,” it said.
The fighters have looted hospitals, aid organizations and private residences throughout Bangui. Many of their vehicles have been stolen and repainted to cover their original emblems. The looting became so severe in the days after the government’s overthrow that some aid organizations allowed rebels to guard their complexes in an effort to keep them from stealing everything.
Bangui’s airport has been secured by French military forces, though much of the city remains in a near-anarchic state apart from rebels patrolling in pickup trucks.
Djotodia pledged Wednesday to begin the process of disarmament as soon as possible “because I am a responsible head of state.” However, the rebels might not be willing to give up their weapons without some type of compensation and Djotodia did not specify what budget would be used to fund the process.
The issue was long a sticking point between the rebels from northern Central African Republic and Bozize. The rebels accused Bozize and his government of failing to deliver on promises to integrate disarmed fighters into the national military and pay them compensation.
Fighters from several different groups joined forces in December to form Seleka, and threatened at the time to overthrow Bozize. They later agreed to talks and signed a January peace accord but that deal quickly unraveled and by March thousands of rebels invaded Bangui.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal.