An aid convoy has reached the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) after a 50-day blockade by rebels who had cut off the city’s lifeline.
On December 19, armed groups launched an offensive on the capital, Bangui, cutting off a key highway that left more than 1,500 trucks stranded on the border with neighbouring Cameroon.
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“Fourteen trucks, nine of them from the UN’s World Food Programme” arrived, said Lieutenant Colonel Abdoulaziz Fall, spokesman for the MINUSCA peacekeeping mission, on Monday.
One of the world’s poorest countries, the CAR has been locked in violence since 2013 when then-president Francois Bozize was overthrown.
The resulting war divided the country largely along religious and ethnic lines, causing thousands of deaths and prompting about a quarter of the population to flee their homes.
Armed groups, which emerged during the conflict, now control about two-thirds of the country.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera depends heavily on UN forces as well as military personnel sent by Russia and Rwanda.
Anti-Touadera groups came together in an alliance in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections on December 27.
Their advance on Bangui was halted but they retained a chokehold on the key highway to the city, preventing trucks from bringing food and other supplies.
The road is essential for nearly all of CAR’s imports, and the price of some basic commodities rose by at least 50 percent in some places.
“The first trucks from Cameroon arrived in Bangui under MINUSCA escort,” said Fall.
In addition to the nine food trucks, “the others are trucks containing equipment for MINUSCA”, he said.
Last month, Touadera was declared the winner of the elections after gaining 53.16 percent of the vote in the first round, an overall majority that obviated the need for a runoff.
But the country’s political opposition dismissed his win as a sham – turnout was just 35.25 percent of the electorate.
Hundreds of thousands of voters were unable to cast their ballot, especially in areas controlled by rebel groups.