I cannot control fighters: Central African president

JUST A MAN::Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia said the problems in his country were so severe ‘an angel from the sky’ would have trouble governing


Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - Page 7

The rebel-leader-turned-president of Central African Republic acknowledged on Sunday that he does not have total control over former allies who are accused of killing scores of civilians.

Even “an angel from the sky” could not solve all his country’s problems, he said.

Violence in just the past few days has killed about 400 people, prompting a UN-sanctioned French military intervention aimed at preventing the former French colony from descending further into sectarian bloodshed. French troops yesterday began to disarm fighters.

In the latest abuse allegations, officials from two relief agencies said on Sunday that Muslim fighters from the former Seleka alliance that brought Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia to power had attacked a hospital in Bangui, pulling out at least nine wounded young men who were accused of being part of a Christian militia and killing them.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by Seleka fighters, said the wounded men were removed from Amitie Hospital in front of horrified medical staff and that the victims’ bodies were found just outside the building.

The victims were suspected of being members of a Christian militia that attacked the capital on Thursday last week, unleashing retaliatory violence across the city.

At a news conference, Djotodia acknowledged the difficulties of controlling the ex-Seleka fighters, who came from several different northern rebel groups with the common goal of ousting former Central African Republic president Francois Bozize from power in March after a decade in office.

“There are allegations that I cannot control my men. I only know those who are with me,” said Djotodia, who has traded his former rebel fatigues for a presidential gray suit and black tie. “Those who aren’t — how can I control them? I am not God, I hope. I am a man like you. And this country is vast — 623,000 square kilometers.”

“You could bring an angel from the sky to govern this country and there would still be problems,” he added.

Djotodia has formally dissolved the Seleka alliance of rebel groups, and his fighters now consider themselves soldiers in the national army.

The ex-rebels’ spray-painted pickup trucks bounced on Sunday over rutted roads around Bangui, particularly in several predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.

Half a dozen ex-Seleka fighters sat near Communautaire Hospital in the capital on Sunday with a pickup truck full of rocket-propelled grenades.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said 394 people were killed over just three days, and the local Red Cross said nearly 400 bodies had been collected as of late on Saturday.

French troops traded fire with former rebels yesterday in Bangui as they sought to disarm fighters.

Shooting erupted near the airport after Seleka gunmen refused to hand over their weapons, a Multinational Force of Central Africa peacekeepers spokesman said.

In Paris, a spokesman for the French army joint staff said the incident was “insignificant” and had lasted less than 10 minutes.

Additional reporting by Reuters