Insecurity, Tension Target December 27 Polls in CAR, UN Rejects Media Reports Bambari under Rebel Control

The United Nations has blasted as false media reports that the town of Bambari in the Central African Republic had come under the control of rebels.

The town was attacked Tuesday, December 22, by an armed group called the Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), one of the militias contesting the government in the run-up to the December 27 polls.

Tuesday’s attack triggered a two -hour gunfight with Central African soldiers and the UN Peacekeeping forces.

And various media outlets claimed Wednesday that the town had effectively remained under rebel control. But in a telephone interview with Timescape Magazine, the Spokesperson for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, Vladimir Monteiro blasted the reports as fake news.

“What RFI and some other media organizations reported this morning was false,” he said.

He admitted though that the rebels had come into town but were routed by UN Peacekeepers and the Central African military.

“…we intervened and according to the forces, either they mixed into the population or they fled into the bush,” Monteiro said.

“Despite the tense situation, despite (sic) attacks by armed group elements, the city is not controlled by UPC and anti-Balakas. There was a burning this morning, but the Minister of Defence made a public announcement to appease people. Nothing is happening and the situation is back to normal. 

“The situation is under control by MINUSCA and National Security and Defense Forces,” he emphasized.

On Wednesday, December 23, residents of the Capital Bangui were gripped by panic following rumours that rebels were moving into the capital.

“People were running in different directions, including me,” journalist Pacome Papandji told Timescape Magazine.

But it was rather the country’s security forces who were out to make sure they keep the rebels at bay.

Still, there have been sporadic attacks in several parts of the country, carried out mostly by Séléka rebels, a group with sympathies to former President, François Bozize.

Authorities over the weekend blamed Mr. Bozize whose candidature for the December 27 election was rejected, for trying to foment a coup and overthrow the government of President Tuodera Archange, a charge Bozize has denied.

Insecurity and armed violence appear on the rise in CAR ahead of the December 27 polls (C) AP

The continuing violence, coming just days to the December 27 elections raises concerns about the smooth conduct of the polls, but authorities have insisted the polls will not be postponed.

Central African Republic has witnessed continuous fighting of varying intensity for decades and has been in a protracted crisis since 2013, when a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels known as the Séléka from the country’s north overthrew President François Bozize, bringing Michel Djotodia to power.

President Djotodia disbanded the Séléka coalition, which had lost its unity after taking power. Instead, the rebel coalition started targeting Christians, leading to the rise of an anti- Séléka rebel movement called the anti-Balaka.

Since this crisis, both former Séléka and anti-balaka factions have splintered, while new ones have formed. These armed groups have been responsible for widespread insecurity across the country as they battle each other and government forces for turf and influence. A 2019 peace deal that fourteen armed factions signed only went some way toward curbing violence, even before the latest outbreak. Armed groups have grown increasingly impatient at what they see as the government’s failure since 2019 to implement parts of the agreement, including integrating their fighters into special mixed brigades.