New leaders struggle to restore order in C.Africa after coup

The Central African Republic's new rulers struggled Wednesday to restore order and get fearful residents to return to work four days after a coup, as the prime minister said he had been reappointed by the nation's new strongman.

Drinking water was still cut off in Bangui after Michel Djotodia and his Seleka rebel group seized the capital Sunday in a rapid-fire assault, forcing president Francois Bozize to flee.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported its food and equipment depots in the country had been stripped by looters, who ransacked shops and businesses in the days after the coup.

Power had started to return to parts of the sprawling riverside capital, but after days of looting during which groups of armed men prowled through the city, residents were fearful of returning to work despite a call by Djotodia for people to do so.

Hospitals were also struggling to get up and running with no doctors, and in some cases still no electricity.

At the Amitie hospital in the capital, patients roamed the halls, left to their own devices. "There is no electricity and no doctors to take care of us," said Sylvain Namboa whose wife was hit by a stray bullet.

"People haven't returned to work and we are running in all directions to make ends meet," said Dr Jean-Chrysostome Gody, director of paediatrics at the general hospital.

Seleka rebels have enlisted the help of the regional FOMAC force to help patrol the streets and crack down on looting. The rebel group announced that anyone carrying a weapon had to register with the authorities by the end of the day.

"They will be given an ID badge. Anyone who hasn't done this will be breaking a law and this law will be strictly enforced," Seleka spokesman Gazam Betty said on national radio.

The ICRC said the looting of its warehouses could threaten its ability to deal with the humanitarian crisis there.

"The buildings we use to store equipment and food have been looted in Bangui. The bulk of the food has been stolen," ICRC spokesman Marie-Servane Desjonqueres told AFP in Geneva.

The housing used by the ICRC's expatriate staff was also targeted, she said.

In a sign that rebels were seeking to maintain some stability, Nicolas Tiangaye -- who was named prime minister in January under a power-sharing deal between Bozize and Seleka that ended a first rebel offensive -- said he had been reappointed.

"I have been renamed prime minister, the decree has been signed," the lawyer and respected former human rights activist told AFP.

Djotodia, a more enigmatic figure who spent years as a civil servant and diplomat before founding a rebel movement in 2005, had said on Monday he intended to keep Tiangaye as premier.

The coup leader, who dissolved parliament and announced he would rule by decree, has stressed he would stick to the spirit of national unity enshrined in the Libreville ceasefire deal signed in January.

"The context has changed but the players are the same," Tiangaye said, adding that he would soon unveil an inclusive cabinet line-up.

But Djotodia also said fresh elections would not be held for another three years and did not rule himself out of the polls.

Tiangaye, who was Seleka's choice after the January deal, admitted that his relations with Djotodia would be far better than with Bozize.

Bozize, who had also seized power in a 2003 coup, has surfaced in Cameroon, where authorities have said he is awaiting relocation to another country.

On Wednesday, taxis were back on the streets of Bangui and national radio resumed its broadcasts but many residents were still struggling with shortages.

"We have nothing to eat, I am feeding my children with water and salt," said one mother in Bangui's Benz VI district who is employed by a telecommunications company whose offices were pillaged.

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away, Pope Francis joined a chorus of calls for peace during his general audience to the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square.

"I appeal for an immediate stop to violence and pillaging, and for a political solution to the crisis to be found as soon as possible to bring peace," he said.

Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday that several media organisations' offices had been raided by Seleka forces during the unrest.