Rebel forces in the Central African Republic seized control of two more towns overnight near Bambari, minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation Josue Binoua said Saturday, as the rebels continue to advance on the capital, Bangui.
Rebels in the Central African Republic captured two more towns overnight Saturday, just days before talks were due to open in an effort to resolve the crisis in the impoverished country.
"The rebels took two towns near Bambari," a town already under the control of the Seleka rebel coalition, Territorial Administration Minister Josue Binoua told AFP.
"This shows their intent to wage war even during negotiations," he said.
There was no immediate reaction from the rebels themselves to the claim.
Rebels 12km from Damara as S. Africa sends troops
The Central African Republic’s Minister of Territorial Administration said Sunday that rebel forces are 12km from Damara, considered the last hurdle before the capital Bangui, which is 75km to the south.
“They are walking around, completing shooting exercises, traumatising the residents,” he said.
“They have been there a week…The government is concerned about such proximity.”
Meanwhile, South Africa announced Sunday that it is sending 400 army troops to help in the battle against the rebel insurgency and “to bring about peace and stability in the region,” a statement from the presidency read.
Central African Republic's neighbouring countries Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo already have sent about 120 troops each to help stabilise the country confronted by the rebellion.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
The comments came just days before the central African regional bloc CEEAC hopes to start hosting talks between the rebels and President Francois Bozize in an effort to solve the nearly month-long crisis in the mineral-rich but impoverished and unstable country.
The rebels had thrown those plans into doubt on Friday when they contradicted claims by CEEAC officials that they had agreed to the talks due to begin in Gabon's capital Libreville on Tuesday, and said instead that they hadn't been informed of the initiative by the Economic Community of Central African States.
On Saturday, Binoua said that the talks, which have the support of the UN Security Council and the United States, would proceed as planned.
"There will be three delegations of 15 members each," he said. "The government, rebels and opposition."
Bozize will head the government delegation while the one from the opposition will be headed by the lawyer Nicolas Tiangaye, he added.
The rebels, who charge that Bozize has not abided by terms of earlier peace deals, launched an offensive on December 10 in the north and easily overran an ill-equipped and poorly-trained army, marching across a large part of the country before halting their push within striking distance of the capital Bangui, in the south.
Rebel troops were stationed at Sibut, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the capital.
The unrest has alarmed the country's neighbours and the international community, with the UN Security Council twice calling on Seleka to halt its offensive and engage in peace talks.
"The Security Council reiterated their demand that the Seleka coalition of armed groups cease all hostilities, withdraw from seized cities, and cease attempts to advance further," said a statement released by the 15-nation body on Friday.
Washington on Friday urged all sides to use the talks proposed by CEEAC as an opportunity "to really try to negotiate a comprehensive, inclusive, political resolution".
Binoua charged on Saturday that the seizure of two more towns was "screaming proof" that the rebels' word could not be trusted.
Worrying reports of recruitment of child soldiers, says UNICEF
Central African nations have begun sending reinforcements to Damara, the last major town between the rebels and the capital, to bolster the Central African Republic's army against the rebels.
The regional troops are fighting under the banner of multinational African force FOMAC, which CEEAC launched in 2008 in a bid to stabilise the coup- and rebellion-prone country.
Northern neighbour Chad, whose President Idriss Deby is an ally of Bozize, has contributed most of the troops to the force, which is due to reach its full strength of 760 by the end of the week.
The violence in the country has affected more than 300,000 children, including through recruitment as child soldiers, family separation, sexual violence and forced displacement, UNICEF has said.
The Central African Republic is a mineral-rich, landlocked nation of a population of about five million and is notorious for unrest including coups, army mutinies and rebellions.
Bozize himself took power in a coup in 2003 and has since been twice elected into office.
The country ranks 179th out of 187 countries on the UN's latest development index.
Date created : 2013-01-05