Army promises crackdown on crime

The Central African Republic (CAR) military has promised to mount a massive crackdown on unauthorised groups of people bearings arms and spreading fear among the public, state-owned Radio Centrafrique reported on Thursday.

It did not say what form the crackdown would take. However, as a first measure, the military has called on residents in the capital, Bangui, to inform it of suspects.

Public perception is that most of the armed robberies and other acts of violence are the work of Chadian mercenaries who fought alongside the forces of Francois Bozize, the current head of state, in his bid to overthrow President Ange-Felix Patasse.

Responding to public demand, Bozize removed on Monday irregular Chadian fighters who had been manning a police station in Bangui and reportedly committing human rights violations.

Since seizing power on 15 March, Bozize has failed to restore total security to the country, despite the presence of a peacekeeping force of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States, a 300-man French military contingent and the same number of Chadian regular army troops.

A curfew running from midnight to 5 a.m., imposed soon after the coup, is still in force. In spite of it, armed robbery continues. The most prominent recent victim is Patasse's former minister of water and forestry, Jean Michel Mandaba.

The situation in the north of the country, where the government has not yet established its full authority, is worse: armed gangs control entire cities and villages, preventing thousands of displaced from returning home.