At least 55 people have been killed in fighting between the forces of the new Central African Republic (CAR) president and those loyal to deposed leader Francois Bozize, according to the government and a regional peacekeeping force.
Bozize’s forces infiltrated villages around Bossangoa, 250km northwest of the capital Bangui, destroying bridges and other infrastructure and “taking revenge against the Muslim population”, Guy-Simplice Kodegue, spokesman for the office of President Michel Djotodia, said on Monday.
Bossangoa is the main town of the Ouham district where General Bozize was born.
Former rebels of the Seleka coalition ended Bozize’s 10-year rule on March 24 and their leader, Djotodia, then became head of state.
That weapons fire caused people to flee in all directions
On Monday morning, “heavy and light arms fire” were heard in the district of Bouca, on the road leading to Bossangoa, a military source in Bangui told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
“That weapons fire caused people to flee in all directions,” the source said.
These clashes caused some 10 deaths on Sunday in Bossangoa, including two employees of the humanitarian organisation ACTED, another military source said.
At least four fighters from Seleka were also killed, the presidential office’s spokesman said.
Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that thousands of people had been displaced and at least eight villages were razed to the ground during recent violence in the north of the country, which has long been a lawless territory outside the towns.
The fighting on Saturday and Sunday comes after a UN warning that the country is on the brink of collapse.
Since Seleka seized power, the security situation has remained chaotic, and Djotodia’s regime faces a major challenge in restoring order and disarming ex-combatants, despite the presence of a regional military peacekeeping force in Bangui.
CAR has been chronically unstable since independence from France in 1960, plagued by coups, rebellions, army mutinies and prolonged strikes by civilians.