Central African Republic in Turmoil

Confusion Reigns a Week After Failed Coup

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BANGUI, Central African Republic, JUNE 7, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The situation is still confusing in Bangui, more than a week after the attempted coup d´état in this country of 3 million inhabitants.

John Paul II referred to this small French-speaking republic at his Wednesday general audience, and appealed for peace.

That same day, President Ange Felix Patasse put a price on the head of General Andre Kolingba, a former president regarded as the instigator of the coup attempt.

According to the international agency Fides, on May 28 a group of rebel military troops attacked the presidential palace, but they were repelled by army troops loyal to the president. The rebels were led by Kolingba, with the support of a few hundred Rwandan and Angolan mercenaries.

The government army has the support of troops from Libya, equipped with heavy weapons and, perhaps, troops from Chad.

In addition, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of the rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has sent a few hundred men to flank the Central African government forces.

These rebels from Congo are thought to be responsible for most of the sacking carried out in Bangui over the last few days. The Central African ambassador in Kinshasa has stated that the presence of MLC troops does not mean that his country supports the Congolese rebellion.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said that France will not intervene: “The time for interfering in Africa is over.” The crisis must be solved “politically and legally,” Vedrine said.

The Central African Republic is a former French colony, which gained independence in 1960. After three tumultuous decades of misrule, mostly by military governments, a civilian government was installed in 1993. That year, Patasse was elected president in 1993.

Army mutinies and coups since 1996 have been put down by the government with forces backed by France.

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