Things have not been easy for rebel leader Michel Djotodia since he overthrew former Central African Republic dictator François Bozize on 24 March 2013 and self-proclaimed head of state.
Djotodia’s ‘ill-disciplined’ Seleka rebels who helped him take power by force and reportedly liberated the people from Bozize’s death squads have now been turned into villains, murderers, thieves and rapists.
This is the view of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which accuses Djotodia’s rebels of committing grave violations against civilians, including pillage, summary executions, rape, and torture. When the Seleka took control of Bangui, the rebels went on a looting spree, killing civilians, raping women, and settling scores with members of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), HRW said. Many of these killings were said to be occurred in urban areas in broad daylight.
HRW said its investigators and researchers spoke with about 70 witnesses, victims, local human rights defenders, journalists, authorities from the previous and new governments, and other sources.
The rights organisation said it uncovered scores of killings committed by Seleka forces in Bangui, the capital, after the March 24 coup and received credible information about further killings by Seleka troops throughout the country between December 2012 and April 2013.
“If the Seleka coalition, as it claims, wants to undo the wrongs of the previous government, it should immediately end its horrific abuses,” HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele said last week. “The government should show it is committed to the rule of law by investigating and prosecuting attacks by Seleka troops against civilians.”
The UN children agency, UNICEF, has also slammed the Seleka rebels and other armed groups for recruiting children into their ranks, reminding their leaders that it was against the law, and that they could face serious consequences for their inhumane actions.
The Seleka rebels, allegedly trained by Chad army instructors and armed by the Chadian government of Idriss Deby, have also been blamed for the killing of 13 South African troops. Many observers believe South African President Jacob Zuma sent more than 200 troops to CAR to protect Bozize against the Seleka rebels in exchange for minerals and oil deals. But they were uprooted and defeated by Djotodia’s well-trained Seleka rebels.
Now however, reports from the capital Bangui suggest that Djotodia is facing some sort of anger and unhappiness from the Seleka ranks, who claimed to be waiting for their financial rewards before disarming. The capital Bangui has since been turned into a war zone, with daily rape, looting and killings still occurring in the face of the government’s inability to rein in the Seleka rebels and restore safety and security.
“The government has an obligation to control the rebels who brought it to power, to prevent abuses, and punish those who commit them,” Bekele said. “Without security, the government will not be able to govern effectively or protect civilians.”