BANGUI, 31 January 2021 – Fighting is ongoing in several parts of the Central African Republic (CAR) with the capital, Bangui, encircled by rebel forces.
A former prime minister of the CAR, Martin Ziguele, described the situation in Bangui as “apocalyptic”.
A state of emergency declared earlier this month remains in place and Ziguele said the situation was so bad that he is not able to leave the capital without armed escort.
“Imagine, then, the population. Add the curfew and the state of emergency – it is really an apocalyptic situation,” Reuters cited the former prime minister as saying.
The rebels continue struggling to set up a blockade of the capital, notably by shutting down the main road linking the landlocked nation to the nearest port in neighboring Cameroon.
Previous efforts by the rebels to shutdown supply roads from Cameroon into the capital have failed.
Ziguele said the situation is such that he needs an armed escort in order to leave the capital.
The rebels, who control two-thirds of the country, have rejected the outcome of the elections of last December 27 won by incumbent president Faustin-Archange Touadera.
Less than one-third of registered voters cast ballots in the presidential election in large part because rebels prevented the election from proceeding in areas under their control.
The political opposition has also rejected the outcome of the ballot, alleging fraud and demanding a re-run.
On Friday, a mini-summit of the 12-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)called for a ceasefire, appealing to the rebels to “disengage from the encirclement of Bangui”.
“The Heads of State and Government urge all rebel forces to observe a unilateral and immediate cease-fire,” Angola’s minister of foreign affairs, Tete Antonio, said in a statement at the end of the summit held in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
“We want a Great Lakes region without armed conflict, without death, or forced displacement of inhabitants,” the statement read in part.
The fighting in the outskirts of Bangui has already displaced more than 200,000 people over the last two months.
About 92,000 refugees have fled to neighboring DR Congo and another 13,000 have fled into Cameroon, Chad and Congo-Brazzaville, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The ICGLR summit expressed fears that the crisis could spill over to other states in the sub-region.
The situation for the internally displaced is “dire”, said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesperson for the UNHCR.
Some of the internally displace are so desperate that they are exchanging sex for food, Cheshirkov added.
Without the backing of United Nations peacekeepers, observers believe the capital would have long fallen.
The UN Secretary-General’s Representative to Central Africa has called on the Security Council to approve additional peacekeepers to support the 12,000-strong force already in place.
At the mini-summit in Luanda, the leaders of ICGLR expressed support for the request for more peacekeepers by CAR and the UN Mission to CAR.
The leaders also called for the lighting of UN-imposed sanctions that prevent the CAR from purchasing heavy weapons since the civil war broke out in the country.
The leaders of Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo joined their Angolan host for the summit in Luanda.
They argued in favor of lifting the UN-imposed sanctions, arguing that the landlocked country needs heavy weapons in order to defend itself from the siege of the capital by armed groups.