Tuesday, November 14, 2006
BANGUI, 14 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - A large number of civilians displaced by rebel activity in northern Central African Republic (CAR) have in the past three days flocked into the mining town of Bria, where the army and forces of Central African States Economic Community (CEMAC) have sent troops and materials to halt the insurgents.The Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) rebels have so far captured three towns in the north, and have said they are targeting Bria, capital of the northeastern province of Haute-Kotto. With at least 20,000 inhabitants, Bria often has food problems as the town's economic mainstay is diamond mining. It has little agricultural activity and food is expensive."The large influx of displaced people in Bria is making life even more expensive," a businessman, who declined to be named, told IRIN on Tuesday.So far, no organisation is providing relief aid for the displaced, estimated by independent sources in the region to number at least 10,000.The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, Toby Lanzer, said he would lead a UN team to Bria on Wednesday to assess the situation.Meanwhile, France has acceded to a request by President François Bozize for military aid to help repulse the UFDR rebels, who began fighting in the north two weeks ago. France said it would provide logistics and military equipment to the army. "This assistance is provided in the frame of the military and defence accord between France and our country," Cyriaque Gonda, Bozize's spokesman, said. "This assistance will boost the efficiency of the army to stop the rebels' progression and restore the country's territorial integrity."Acknowledging the rebel capture of northern towns of Birao and Ouadda-Djallé, Gonda said residents of the small mining town of Sam-Ouandja, the third town the rebels claim to have seized, fled before the rebels' arrival. UFDR spokesman Abakar Saboune criticized the French gesture. "We are really unhappy with the decision by France to provide the CAR troops with logistics and materials," he said. "This assistance illustrates French support for the ruling regime rather than the people who want to put an end to chaotic rule of President Bozize."He said the rebels had, in the meantime, suspended their operations in order to give Bozize time to "change his mind" and agree to "holding round-table talks over power sharing in our country. This truce aims at mobilising African leaders in the sub-region to persuade President Bozize to call for dialogue," Saboune added.Since they captured Birao, the rebels have been calling for power-sharing talks with Bozize, claming the president was running the country on ethnic lines. They have also accused Bozize of fostering an exclusionist policy, mismanaging public funds, corruption and nepotism.