Central African Republic coup leader declares himself defence minister and president
Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who declared himself president over the weekend after his soldiers seized the capital, meets with members of the government armed forces, in Bangui, Central African Republic, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo)
Published Monday, April 1, 2013 9:38AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 1, 2013 12:33PM EDT
BANGUI -- Central African Republic's coup leader further solidified his hold on the government Monday after announcing that he will serve as both president and defence minister, while other top posts are going to his fellow rebels.
Michel Djotodia, who led the thousands of rebel fighters who overthrew longtime President Francois Bozize just over a week ago, made the announcement in a decree read late Sunday on state radio.
Not only will Djotodia hold the defence ministry, but his allies also will control the ministries of mines, commerce, communication, and security and public order, according to a decree issued on letterhead that reads "presidency of the republic."
Opposition leader Nicolas Tiangaye remains as prime minister in the new government.
Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at Chatham House, a London-based institute on international affairs, has described the coup as being about "blind ambition" despite the rebels' claims they are seeking greater assistance for their homeland in the deeply impoverished northeast. The rebel alliance that overthrew the government was called Seleka.
"All the accounts of Seleka are that they have no development vision for CAR. It's exclusively about redistribution of patrimony from having captured the state," Vines said.
"There is so little other activity -- capturing the state is sort of the main source of revenue," he said.
Thousands of Djotodia's rebels are now residing in the capital, and could be seen Monday riding on pickup trucks that were sponge-painted brown and black in a kind of homemade camouflage with "Seleka" scrawled across the sides.
Others camped out on cots inside the state-run radio and television buildings, and some sat beside a drained swimming pool at the luxury hotel that Djotodia has transformed into his presidential palace.
Some are identifiable by the head turbans they wear, though others have taken to wearing clothes they took from the Central African army soldiers who fled in the face of the rebel advance.
Djotodia, who first rose to prominence as a rebel leader back in 2006, already had served as defence minister since the formation of an ill-fated national unity government in January.
That agreement had been backed by regional mediators trying to avert a crisis in the country long wracked by coups and rebellions, and was to allow Bozize to remain in office until 2016.
However, the rebels known as Seleka soon accused Bozize of failing to deliver on his promises and ousted him during fierce fighting that also left 13 South African soldiers dead.
Bozize and his family have taken refuge in neighbouring Cameroon and are now seeking exile in the tiny West African nation of Benin.
In South Africa on Monday, an opposition party presented an urgent parliamentary resolution in a bid to force President Jacob Zuma to withdraw troops from Central African Republic.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille's announcement comes amid increasingly angry debate over why the soldiers were deployed and allegations they were sent to protect mining interests of South Africa's governing African National Congress. The ANC denies it has any business in the country rich in diamonds, uranium and oil.
There are even suggestions Zuma should be impeached for allegedly misleading parliament about the foreign military mission.
Thirteen South African soldiers were killed in fighting after rebels moved into the capital, Bangui, on March 23 and eventually overthrew the government. President Francois Bozize fled the country. Zuma has said the soldiers were training troops in Central African Republic.