In the Central African Republic (CAR), a rebel coalition called Seleka has captured at least 11 towns and cities since launching an offensive on Dec. 10. Seleka, Sango for “alliance,” was formed in August and comprises breakaway factions from four rebel groups that had signed peace deals with President Francois Bozizé starting in 2007. The group’s leaders charge that Bozizé failed to implement those agreements effectively. In particular, they are demanding payments for demobilized fighters and the release of imprisoned rebels.
CAR has a history of instability, including the rebellion that brought Bozizé to power in 2003 as well as a rebellion against him from 2003 to 2007. Yet Seleka constitutes one of the most powerful challenges Bozizé has faced. CAR’s African peers, keen to prevent his fall, are attempting to halt the rebels’ momentum and protect the capital, Bangui. In the meantime, the regional bloc the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) hopes to achieve a political solution at the negotiating table in Gabon.
Efforts at dialogue between the rebels and the government are underway, but both sides have presented demands on which they refuse to negotiate. In late-December, ECCAS sent mediators to Bangui as well as to Ndele, a rebel-held town. Bozizé offered to form a national unity government and pledged to step down when his current term ends in 2016. Rebel commanders rejected the proposal, insisting that Bozizé leave office immediately, which the president refuses to do. Direct negotiations are set to take place around Jan. 10 in Libreville, Gabon, under the auspices of ECCAS. Yet, given the current impasse, the talks may well fall apart.