Peacekeepers Regain Control of Strategic Town in CARFebruary 3, 2014 in Africa, Central Africa Republic
Over the past weekend, peacekeepers stationed in the Central African Republic recaptured control of the key town of Sibut after rebel fighters had taken control of the northern town late last week.
The commander of the African Union force confirmed that his troops had taken control of the town from former members of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebellion. General Tumenta Chomud further noted that “a Gabonese contingent from MISCA is in place in the town. It is clear that the Seleka fighters can be contained and they will be disarmed.” The announcement came just days after Seleka fighters captured the town of Sibut, which links the capital Bangui with the north of the country. The take forced hundreds of terrified residents to flee into the bush.
On Friday, French troops converged on the rebel-held town in the northern region of the country. French military aircraft hovered over Sibut, which is located 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of the capital Bangui. The town was seized by ex-Seleka rebels on Thursday, prompting African troops, and hundreds of frightened residents, to flee. A French communication officer indicated on that “a military operation is happening in Sibut,” while the presence of the aircraft was been confirmed by defence officials in Paris.
The capture of the northern town is just the latest challenge faced by peacekeepers struggling to maintain order in the CAR. Newly installed interim president, Catherine Samba Panza has criticized the rebel efforts, stating that they were aiming to “destabilize her mandate,” adding that “at the time when the government is calling for togetherness, tolerance and national reconciliation, some of our countrymen are taking upon themselves the heavy responsibility of dividing the country.”
The latest increase of violence, coupled with the taking over of Sibut, has indicated that the installation of a new government has so far failed to stem inter-religious violence between the mostly Muslim Seleka and Christian militia groups.