An exchange of gunfire and rockets over the Central African Republic’s northwestern border with Cameroon has heightened fears that the troubled African nation could fall back into full-blown conflict. In recent days, fighting between the Seleka rebel alliance and militias loyal to ousted President Francois Bozize have put towns and rural settlements in northwestern Ouham prefecture under siege. More than 100 civilians have been killed in the clashes; whole villages have been burned to the ground; and thousands have been displaced from their homes by the fighting.
At the epicenter of the violence are the river towns of Bossangoa and Bouca, where control has changed hands between pro-Bozize and Seleka fighters several times since fighting first broke out on Sept. 7. Seleka has since regained control of both territories, but the latest series of clashes constitutes the most significant incident yet of armed resistance to Seleka, a coalition of disparate rebel groups primarily from northern CAR. Fed up with the Bozize government’s nonfulfillment of past peace agreements, Seleka launched a rebellion against the elected leader in December 2012. In March 2013, Seleka forces led by Michel Djotodia overran the capital, Bangui, and formed a new government, with Djotodia declaring himself interim president.
Since the coup, however, violence and disorder have persisted in CAR as Seleka has continued looting and committing abuses despite the transitional government's calls for the rebels to disarm and desist from violence. On Sept. 13, Djotodia issued a presidential decree announcing the immediate dissolution of the rebel union and called for nonstate security forces to disarm and return to their barracks. But in defiance of the order, Seleka has remained armed and continues to foment disorder in many areas, including in Bangui.