CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Ruling party accuses Chad of backing coup attempt
President Ange-Felix Patasse
BANGUI, 5 November 2002 (IRIN) - The ruling Mouvement pour la liberation du peuple centrafricain (MLPC) of President Ange-Felix Patasse has accused President Idriss Deby of Chad of destabilising the Central African Republic (CAR) by supplying men and equipment to Gen Francois Bozize, the CAR former chief of staff, whose forces attacked the CAR capital, Bangui, from 25 to 26 October.
"It has been clearly proven that Francois Bozize and his criminal band have benefited from an important support in men and equipment from the Chadian government, which demonstrates the strong will of Deby to destabilise our country," Joseph Vermont Tchendo, the party's administrative secretary-general, said in a communiqué on Sunday.
The communiqué, read on state-owned Radio Centrafrique by Maitar Djim Arem, the MLPC secretary in charge of communication, called on party members to remain vigilant and to protect Chadians who have chosen the CAR as their home.
On Monday, Chad demanded an international inquiry into the alleged killing of 150 of its citizens in Bangui on 31 October.
"It has been established that there was a massacre," Moctar Wawa Dahab, Chad's communications minister, was quoted as telling Agence France-Presse (AFP). "We are going to request an independent international inquiry that will determine exactly what happened and what should be done."
Chad blamed the killing, which Bangui denies took place, on members of the presidential security guard allegedly led by the Chadian former rebel, Abdoulaye Miskine, now a colonel in the CAR army, AFP reported.
In the meantime, the situation is returning to normal in the northern suburbs of Bangui, where looting has decreased and taxis can now circulate freely. However, residents continue to live in fear of continued looting by the forces of Jean-Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) rebel movement, and have organised self-defence militias armed with spears and machetes.
On an inspection of his troops in the north of Bangui on Saturday, Bemba vowed to punish any of his fighters involved in looting and other acts of violence. He told Radio France Internationale on Tuesday that some officers had already been arrested in connection with looting in Bangui, and would be transferred to MLC headquarters in Gbadolite, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they would be court-martialled.
In other sections of the capital, people resumed their daily activities except in public schools, where only a few pupils and teachers could be seen.
The humanitarian situation in the northern suburbs, however, remained precarious, as the assessment of casualties has not yet been completed and access of humanitarian workers to affected populations still difficult.
The coordinator of Medicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) of Spain, Raquel Ayora, told IRIN on Tuesday that MSF was still concerned for the security of its workers in the north of Bangui.
"We are not yet able to go there without a military escort," Ayora, who added that MSF was planning a second humanitarian needs assessment mission to Begoua, a northern suburb particularly hard hit by violence.
For its part, the UN has announced that, in collaboration with the Bangui authorities, it would undertake a two-month evaluation and assistance programme for the women raped and beaten by Bemba's MLC fighters.
Of particular concern is the resulting potential spread of the HIV virus. CAR is the most HIV/AIDS-affected nation in the subregion, and the 10th most affected in the world, with 12 percent of its population HIV-positive.
The programme, called 'Assistance humanitaire d'urgence aux filles et femmes victimes de viols et de violence', is expected to cost US $100,000.
As for the presidential spokesman, Prosper Ndouba, taken hostage by Bozize's forces on 25 October, it is believed he is still being held by rebels who have fled some 300 km north of Bangui toward the Chadian border.
"We have not had news about him for four days. We have contacted BONUCA [the United Nations Peace-building Office in CAR] and the International Committee of Red Cross in Yaounde [Cameroon], but nothing has been done so far," Christophe Ndouba, Prosper's younger brother, told IRIN on Tuesday.
He said the family was extremely worried about his brother's health, since he suffers from diabetes and hypertension. The younger Ndouba denied rumours that his brother was in a Bangui hospital after rebels allegedly amputated his legs.
As evidence of the high level of tension prevailing among Bangui residents, traumatised pedestrians fled in panic earlier on Tuesday as taxis rushed to leave the city centre, and children fled private schools, homeward bound. Radio Centrafrique reported that the panic was provoked by a cortege of cars of Bemba's MLC speeding to the city centre to get fuels. People feared a confrontation between the MLC troops and CAR forces who were preventing them from crossing the river with stolen goods.