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Armed Conflicts

CAR Rebels Halt Advance on Capital

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 2 2013 - Rebels in Central African Republic have said they have halted their advance on the capital, Bangui, and would participate in dialogue, as head of regional African forces warned them against making further moves.

The announcement on Wednesday gave only a limited reprieve for President Francois Bozize as the rebels told Reuters news agency they might insist on his removal in the negotiations in Gabon’s capital Libreville.

“I have asked our forces not to move their positions starting today because we want to enter talks in Libreville for a political solution,” Eric Massi, rebel spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from Paris.

“I am in discussion with our partners to come up with proposals to end the crisis, but one solution could be a political transition that excludes Bozize,” he said.

On Wednesday, the commander of the regional African force, FOMAC, warned rebels against any attempt to take Damara, the last strategic town between them and the country’s capital Bangui.

“Let it be clear, we will not give up Damara,” General Jean-Felix Akaga said.

“If the rebels attack Damara that would amount to a declaration of war and would mean that they have decided to engage the 10 central African states,” he told reporters in Bangui.

More than 30 truckloads of troops from Chad now line the two-lane highway just outside of Damara, to support government forces.

The rebels, who began their campaign a month ago and have taken several key towns and cities, appear to be holding their positions up until Sibut, which is 112km further north fram Damara.

‘Religious links’

In a bid to avoid being overthrown, President Bozize has promised to form a coalition government with rebels and to negotiate without conditions.

It’s a sign of how serious a threat is now being posed by the rebel groups who call themselves Seleka, which means alliance in the local Sango language.

They have accused Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal.

“There is a little bit of hope as rebels have stopped their advance on the capital,” Lydie Boka, Africa analyst, director of Strategic Co, told Al Jazeera.

“And really they didn’t have much of choice given that Chad, which is a big player and a master of the game in the region, has warned that they should not go beyond Damara.”

There is also speculation about religious links between rebels and some of the neigbouring countries like Sudan and Chad, she said.

The landlocked nation of 4.4 million people is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium and yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

Central African Republic has suffered many army revolts, coups and rebellions since gaining independence from France in 1960.

“Central Africans are tired of somebody who came by force in 2003 and didn’t really share power. Basically, his (Bozize) party, KNK, took over everything in the country. The last legislative elections were virtually fraudulent,” Boka said.

*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.

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