BANGUI, 22 January 2021 – Authorities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have declared a state of emergency as armed groups knock on the gates of the capital, Bangui.
“A state of emergency has been declared across the national territory for 15 days, starting from midnight [on Thursday],” a presidential spokesperson, Albert Yaloke Mokpeme, said Thursday, reading a statement broadcast by national radio.
During the state of emergency, most freedoms and civil liberties are suspended, as the police, gendarmerie and military are given extraordinary powers to arrest and detain citizens without the approval of prosecutors.
The rebels trying to lay siege on Bangui have called for the resignation of newly re-elected CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
He won 53.9 percent of the votes cast in the presidential election of last December 27 to serve his second and last term, according to the constitution.
Armed militia groups who control two-thirds of the country, prevented voting from taking place in the parts they control, leading to only a third of eligible voters casting their ballots.
The rebels then used the low turnout figures to try to delegitimize the election outcome, describing it as unacceptable.
The political opposition decried irregularities and fraud evidence of which it did not provide, and called for a re-run.
On Monday, the Constitutional Court dismissed these and other concerns, validating the results by certifying Touadera’s victory.
Former president, Francois Bozize, who was disqualified from running in the December ballot, has voiced support for those opposed to the certification of the ballot.
Touadera’s government accused Bozize of plotting a coup; a charge that the former president denies.
Six of the rebel movements formed a coalition in the lead-up to the election and they have stuck together, fighting alongside each other in their ongoing attempt to seize the capital.
The rebels have also tried to blockade the capital, cutting it off from vital supplies that can only reach the landlocked nation by the National Route Number 3 linking CAR to the nearest sea port in neighboring Cameroon.
A week ago, an earlier attempt to lay siege on the capital was repelled by government armed and security forces backed by United Nations peacekeepers.
One peacekeeper from Rwanda was killed in that attack and another, also from Rwanda, was injured.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Central Africa Louceny Fall has called on the Security Council to provide additional peacekeepers.
Russia deployed a security and military mission in support of the elections with soldiers who were not, according to Moscow, involved in any of the fighting on the ground.
Rwanda deployed additional troops to protect its peacekeepers in CAR.
Both countries said they were acting at the invitation of the government and in keeping with bilateral agreements.