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CAR army kills 7 in rebel ambush, vote tensions rise

By on February 12, 2011

Central African Republic soldiers killed seven rebels in a clash in the country’s east, an army official said on Friday, as tensions over the results of last month’s elections began to boil over.

The government of re-elected leader Francois Bozize, meanwhile, accused opposition leaders of being “terrorists” in cahoots with the insurgents after they dismissed provisional results from the January 23 poll as fraudulent.

“The CPJP rebels were preparing to attack us, but we were informed ahead of time and ambushed them. The fighting was violent and they recorded seven dead in their ranks. On our side, there were no injuries or deaths,” Lt. Jean Marie Sogbia, an army officer, told Reuters by telephone on Friday.

Central African Republic is rich in diamonds, uranium and gold but instability and isolation, with roads often crumbling not far outside the capital, have discouraged investment.

A spokesman for the main rebel group CPJP — which has long opposed Bozize’s rule — told Reuters by telephone four of its fighters were killed in the clash near the village of Gbama on February 9 alongside three government soldiers, and added further clashes around the country were likely.

“The fighting has just begun, since our allies, notably the APRD and the FDPC (rebel groups) are in the process of taking positions in the north,” spokesman Etienne Ngama said.

“Our brothers from the other movements have played all of their cards, including signing peace accords, engaging in political dialogue, cease fires, the removal of roadblocks in zones in our control … all of this in the interests of allowing Bozize to organise transparent elections. But instead of that, he’s organised an electoral hold-up.”


Bozize, in power since a 2003 coup, took 66 percent of the ballots cast, the election commission announced last week, eliminating the need for a second round run-off and paving the way for a new five-year term.

Opposition candidates including former president Ange Felix Patasse, and opposition figures Martin Ziguele and Emile Gros Nakombo, called the results fraudulent, and accused the electoral body of bias.

Elections in the former French colony were originally due last April but were delayed three times by a lack of funds and problems disarming the country’s myriad rebel groups.

Government spokesman Fidele Gouandjika blamed the rival presidential candidates for the rising instability, and said they were supporting the rebel operations.

“Patasse and Ziguele are terrorists because they are in cahoots with the rebels,” he said in a broadcast on state radio this week, adding that the army was prepared to put down any attempts at rebellion. “Our army will show no mercy.”

A spokesman for Patasse, a former president, accused the government of intimidating political dissidents, and said groups of armed men had been deployed to harass residents in opposition strongholds around the capital Bangui.

“A real climate of fear has been created by the government to intimidate the population ahead of the announcement of the final results by the Constitutional Court,” Patasse spokesman Simplice Kodegue said in an interview on a local radio station.

U.N. peacekeepers previously mandated to provide security in the north left last year but a regional peacekeeping force remains in the country to bolster the national force.


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