Connect to share and comment

Seleka, Central Africa's motley rebel coalition

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Rebel coalition Seleka seized the Central African Republic's capital Bangui on Sunday following the collapse of a two-month-old peace deal. Here is key background on the rebels:

THE ORIGIN AND MAKEUP OF A MOTLEY MOVEMENT

The rebel groups in the coalition -- Seleka means "alliance" in the country's Sango language -- were signatories to the 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the government.

Since September, however, dissident factions of the main signatory rebel groups have banded together as Seleka.

The alliance is made up of factions of the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity, the Wa Kodro Salute Patriotic Convention and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace.

Seleka's leader is Michel Djotodia, who had been named deputy prime minister and defence minister in a hurriedly brokered power-sharing government unveiled last month in a bid to restore peace after the rebels quickly overran large swathes of the impoverished country in December.

Many of the fighters are ex-mutineers and former militiamen from earlier rebel movements. They come mainly from the north of the chronically unstable country.

Seleka numbers between 1,000 and 2,000 fighters, according to Roland Marchal, a specialist of Central African conflicts at the Paris-based National Centre for Scientific Research.

The Central African Republic's army has at most 3,500 men, though it had been bolstered by troops sent in from around the region.

DEMANDS

The Seleka rebels say the government has not honoured peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011 that offered financial support and other help for insurgents who laid down their arms.

As they made gains on the ground, they also began demanding that President Francois Bozize step down.

A RAPID CONQUEST

Ill-equipped, unmotivated and poorly trained, the Central African Republic's army offered little resistance to the Seleka fighters.

Some observers believe that even if the rebellion is mostly made up of former Central African rebels, it also includes former army troops and fighters from countries including Chad and Sudan -- claims the rebels deny.

According to Marchal, "given the rebellion's origins in the north, we can assume there are many Muslims in their ranks."

As for the fighters' nationalities, he said, it is a region where "people come and go between borders that almost don't exist."

CHAD'S ROLE

A close ally of Bozize, Chad helped bring him to power in 2003 and to rid the north of rebel movements in late 2010.

Chad sent peacekeeping troops into the Central African Republic as the rebels advanced, and played mediator in the failed peace deal by hosting a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States.

But Chad, the region's military powerhouse, refrained from stopping the rebels' advance, fuelling speculation that Bozize was dropped by his old ally, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno.

xbs-burs/jhb

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130324/seleka-central-africas-motley-rebel-coalition