Rebel leader Michel Djotodia has announced he is suspending the constitution of the Central African Republic and dissolving parliament.
“Bangui is under our control and calm but we have things to do on the ground in terms of security“
– Eric Massi, Seleka rebel spokesperson
His announcement on Monday comes one day after his Seleka rebels seized the capital, Bangui, and forced Francois Bozize, the country’s president, into exile in Cameroon.
“I consider it necessary to suspend the November 27, 2004 constitution, to dissolve parliament as well as the government,” Djotodia said.
“During that transition period which will lead us to free, credible and transparent elections, I will legislate by decree.”
Djotodia declared himself president late on Sunday. He had pledged to keep a power-sharing government in place in compliance with a January peace deal.
The office of President Bozize issued a radio statement earlier to say he had fled the capital sought refuge in Cameroon.
“He currently is while awaiting his departure to another host country,” the statement read out on Monday over national radio said.
SA soldiers killed
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said earlier on Monday that 13 South African soldiers were killed in clashes with the Seleka rebels on the outskirts of Bangui.
Zuma said that at least 27 South African soldiers were injured and one soldier was unaccounted for, in intense fighting in the Central African Republic that had escalated since Saturday.
“We are deeply saddened by the events and developments in that country over the past 72 hours which saw violence escalating and many innocent lives lost,” Zuma said.
|About 5,000 Seleka fighters swept into capital Bangui on Sunday after the collapse of a power-sharing deal [AFP]|
The announcement raised questions about the future role of South Africa’s 200-soldier contingent it sent to the Central African Republic in January to support the government troops after the rebels launched an offensive in early December.
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Nairobi, said that a curfew was implemented and Salaka rebels were meeting at a local hotel in the capital.
Eric Massi, a spokesperson for the Seleka rebels said late on Sunday that the sitting prime minister remained in place.
“The cabinet will be slightly reshuffled,” Massi said.
“Bangui is under our control and calm but we have things to do on the ground in terms of security. Looting must be stopped.”
The peace deal in January created a power-sharing government composed of rebels, civilian opposition and Bozize loyalists.
The rebels, who have accused Bozize of breaking the peace agreement, raided Bangui on Thursday.
Looting and gunfire had been reported earlier across many parts of Bangui after rebels seized the presidential palace there on Saturday.
Witnesses said on Sunday that gunfire could be heard across many parts of the capital and that businesses were being looted.
Amy Martin, the Bangui bureau chief for the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs, described the situation as precarious.
“Most residents are in their homes, everything has pretty much been looted,” Martin said.
She said that the looting was done by “a combination of armed elements” and neighbourhood residents targeting houses in the diplomatic community.
The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a written statement on Monday that said he was deeply concerned by reports of serious violations of human rights.
It said it underscored that those responsible for committing such violations would be held accountable.
He condemned the seizure, and called for “the swift restoration of constitutional order”.
France sent in another company of 150 troops to join 250 soldiers already stationed in the Central African Republic in an attempt to secure Bangui’s international airport, a diplomatic source said.
On Sunday, the French presidency said France was determined to protect its citizens in the country.