9 Jan 2014

CAR conflict: President Djotodia faces pressure to step down

Central African Republic’s interim President Michel Djotodia faces pressure to step down at a summit of regional leaders amid growing violence.

Political sources in Bangui and French diplomatic sources said Djotodia would announce his departure at the meeting of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) in the Chadian capital N’Djamena or shortly afterwards on his return to Bangui.

A spokesman for Djotodia, who seized power in March at the head of the Seleka rebels, denied any such plan.

But CEEAC Secretary General Ahmat Allami said the group would tell Djotodia that his transitional government was not working.

Read more from Alex Thomson: Ominous signs in Central African Republic

French and African troops have struggled to stop tit-for-tat violence between Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian militias in which more than 1,000 people have died.

“If you are incapable, if you are powerless in the face of the situation, make way for others who can do a better job,” Mr Allami said in N’Djamena. “It may happen that CEEAC is overwhelmed and cannot continue to support the transition.”

“That does not mean that CEEAC can proceed to simply change the head of state. Central African Republic is not a state under tutelage,” he said.

Diplomatic sources said on Wednesday that European Union officials have proposed that the EU move quickly and send a force of at least battalion-strength, roughly 700 to 1,000 soldiers, to the west of the country or the capital.

The news will please France, which has urged allies to do more to bolster the 1,600 troops it deployed last month. But it is too early to say how much support there is among EU member governments for sending a military mission that might put EU soldiers’ lives at risk.