Friday 24 November 2017

C.Africa in faceoff with former militia over barracks

C.Africa in faceoff with former militia over barracks
(AFP 11/08/17)

Central African Republic's embattled government is in a faceoff with former fighters of an ousted militia who are occupying three barracks in the CAR capital Bangui, an AFP reporter saw Tuesday.

More than 1,200 of the former rebels have been told to quit the buildings but some are refusing to leave, the reporter found.

The former fighters were once with the so-called Seleka alliance, a coalition of Muslim-majority militias.

They have been occupying the barracks since the Seleka overthrew the then president, Francois Bozize, in 2013.

The Seleka, in turn, were ousted by a military intervention led by former colonial ruler France, and the United Nations launched a peacekeeping mission in 2014.

But the country remains chronically unstable and violence-prone, and the government is struggling to assert its authority over armed groups.

CAR Defence Minister Marie-Noelle Koyara, speaking to AFP by phone on Monday, said the ex-Seleka fighters had been told to leave the barracks, under plans to overhaul the country's military.

"We are 'relaunching' the army, and that's why it's important to recover the barracks," Koyara said.

The government is proposing a payoff of 100,000 CFA francs (152 euros, $176) to former rebels, but some have dismissed the offer.

"I don't think that 100,000 francs is enough," said Hissene Scheiker, described as the commander of former fighters holed up in Camp Beal barracks, which under Bozize's regime was the country's defence ministry.

"How are we going to live outside with 100,000 francs? Live like vagrants?"

"We want two million francs per person, and to join the DDRR programme," he said, referring to a disarmament process set up by the government and supported by the UN.

About a thousand people -- women and children included -- live in Camp Beal, Scheiker said.

The authorities also want to move fighters out of two other barracks in Bangui -- units named after the Regiment for Support and Services (RSS) and the Territorial Operational Defence Regiment (RDOT).

Ex-Seleka fighters in the camps have repeatedly expressed angry demands for support, mainly by blocking off traffic in nearby streets.

Most of the former combatants come from isolated regions in the far north of the country.

Several dozen others are still illegally occupying houses and villas in northern Bangui, despite appeals to the government from the owners to recover their property.

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