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Africa

Former CAR president Djotodia seeks exile in Benin

© AFP archive

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-12

Michel Djotodia, who resigned as interim president of the Central African Republic on Friday after months of sectarian violence, has sought exile in Benin, according to Chadian and Beninese officials.

Djotodia resigned along with his prime minister under intense international pressure after they failed to halt months of inter-religious violence, displacing nearly a million people from their homes. 

Government sources in both Chad and Benin on Saturday said Djotodia would go into exile in Benin, where he arrived in an official Chadian plane on Saturday.

He was met at the airport by Benin's Foreign Minister, Nassirou Bako Arifari, who earlier in the day had confirmed that his country had agreed to host Djotodia at the request of central African states.

Djotodia and Arifari shook hands but the former head of state, in casual clothes and looking relaxed, made no comment to waiting journalists.

His choice of refuge is unsurprising: Djotodia spent several years there during the last decade of turmoil and has family in the West African nation.

Thousands of people on Friday took to the streets of Bangui, the country's crumbling riverside capital, to celebrate the departure of Djotodia, who was swept to power by mainly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, last March.

Abuses by rogue Seleka forces had led to the creation of Christian self-defence militia and killings that evoked memories of Rwanda's genocide 20 years ago.

Joy gave way to violence late on Friday and African and French peacekeepers reported overnight clashes between Seleka fighters and the Christian militia in Bangui.

"But I can confirm that a good part of the shooting was warning shots from us to disperse looters who were targeting Muslim homes and shops," an officer in the African peacekeeping mission said, asking not to be named.

'Time for payback'

Former colonial power France, which had sought to stay out of the latest crisis in a country where it has often intervened, dispatched hundreds of soldiers last month to bolster a beleaguered African peacekeeping force as killings spiraled.

Yet violence has continued, killing 1,000 in December. French and Chadian troops were among the victims and international pressure mounted on Djotodia to step aside at an emergency summit hosted by neighboring Chad this week.

Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, the head of Central African Republic's (CAR) transitional assembly (CNT), is officially in charge of the country until the body can select a new leader to guide CAR to elections, which are due later this year.

While Djotodia went into exile, Nguendet and other Central African politicians returned to Bangui where, even with 1,600 French and some 4,000 African peacekeepers on the ground, security is precarious.

The International Organisation for Migration on Saturday began airlifting stranded foreigners out of the country, where 60,000 people from neighboring countries have asked to leave.

Some 27,000 people, mainly from Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad, have already been evacuated by their governments.

Tensions are running high among those who will remain.

"They (Muslims) killed us, looted and mistreated us. Now it is time for payback," said Igor Moumini, a resident in the Sica 2 neighborhood.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-01-11

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