CAR interim leaders stand down

Friday 10 January 2014 21.53
Demonstrators holding a placard reading 'Djotodia Resign' march to Mpoko airport
Demonstrators holding a placard reading 'Djotodia Resign' march to Mpoko airport

Central African Republic's interim leaders caved in to international pressure and resigned today after failing to halt inter-religious violence.

The resignations prompted street celebrations but raised questions over who would step in to take charge.

The resignations of President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye came at a two-day summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) in neighbouring Chad.

Talks to decide on new leadership will take place in Central African Republic, a communique said.

Thousands of people have been killed and a million displaced since abuses by Mr Djotodia's mainly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, prompted the creation of Christian self-defence militia after he seized power in March.

With memories of Rwanda's 1994 genocide stirred by the unrest, France sent hundreds of troops to its former colony last month to support African peacekeeping forces.

But the killings have continued, and France has repeatedly voiced its frustration with Mr Djotodia's government.

Sporadic gunfire rang out in Bangui after curfew tonight as French forces fired warning shots to prevent clashes between rival fighters in one neighbourhood.

Messrs Djotodia and Tiangaye resigned after Central African Republic's transitional assembly (CNT) was summoned to the Chad summit late last night to decide on the country's future.

Under an agreement brokered by the CEEAC last year, the CNT elected Mr Djotodia to his position as interim president in April to take Central African Republic to elections, due at the end of this year.

"We take note of the resignation. It is up to the CNT to decide what happens now," said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal.

"France does not interfere in any case with this process."

The regional leaders, led by Chad's Idriss Deby, a French ally, had run out of patience with Mr Djotodia.

Sources said on Wednesday he would be forced to resign at the summit, although Mr Djotodia's office had insisted he would remain in power.

A French diplomatic source said the leaders of regional powers Chad, Gabon and Republic of Congo would each have their favourites to take over but there were "no outstanding candidates" and it was up to local leaders to decide.

"It is important this transition happens as quickly as possible," the source said.

A sticking point is likely to be that anyone who takes up a senior position in the transition is ruled out of running in the next election.