Rebels seize another town in Central Republic

Updated 24 December 2012
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Rebels seize another town in Central Republic

BANGUI: Rebels in the Central African Republic said on Saturday they had seized another town in a push toward the capital Bangui in defiance of calls from regional leaders to halt their advance and accept peace talks.
The rebels said the call for negotiations was another excuse for President Francois Bozize, who seized power in a coup in 2003, to buy more time and cling to power.
"The people of the Central African Republic ... do not have that much time to waste in long negotiations which in the end will benefit General Francois Bozize in his will to hold on to power beyond 2016," the rebels said in a statement.
"Our objective is simple: change the misrule of General Francois Bozize by force or through dialogue. And if it is through dialogue, then it will be a consensual solution, involving all components of the political and social life of our country," said the rebels, known as the Seleka alliance.
Long-running instability in landlocked CAR, roughly the size of former colonial master France, has discouraged major investment in its timber, gold, uranium and diamond deposits.
A mix of local rebellions, banditry, ethnic tensions and the spill-over of conflicts in neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo has undermined efforts to stabilise the nation which has suffered misrule since independence in 1960.
Regional heads of state of the 10-nation Central Africa bloc on Friday demanded the rebels pull back their forces to original positions and accept talks with the government within a week.
The alliance, composed of splinters from previous rebellions, has complained that Bozize has failed to implement the terms of a 2007 peace accord, which include payouts to rebels soldiers.
The rebels have captured nine towns in their two-week push towards the capital, including the diamond-mining town of Bria in the centre of the country, meeting little resistance from the ill-equipped government forces.
The statement, signed by Justin Mambissi Matar, secretary general for the alliance, said they took the town of Ippy about 500 km (300 miles) from the capital on Friday.
The government of the Central African Republic was not immediately available to comment on Saturday.
The rebels also warned neighbouring Chad against intervening in the conflict after Chadian troops were deployed into the country to help stop the rebel advance, following a request from President Bozize.
"To our knowledge, neither the African Union nor the UN Security Council decided on a resolution authorizing Chad to go shoot Central Africans," the statement said.
President Bozize took power originally with support from Chad President Idriss Deby and has called on Chad on several occasions to help fight off rebellions.
FROM: REUTERS


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”