Rebels in the Central African Republic Dec. 23 seized the key city of Bambari—the country’s third largest—as part of their new offensive. The rebels—known as the Seleka coalition—have seized several towns north of the capital in recent weeks, charging that President Francois Bozize has failed to uphold a 2007 peace deal. The Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed with former rebel groups, called for the release of prisoners and compensation to ex-combatants. The renewed insurgents also oppose plans by Bozize to alter the constitution to seek a third term, according to a statement signed by Seleka secretary general Justin Mambissi Matar.
The Seleka coalition, launched in August, is made up of breakaway factions from three former armed groups: Nureldine Adam’s Wa Kodro Salute Patriotic Convention (CPSK), Dhaffane Mohamed Moussa’s Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) and Michel Djotodja’s Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). The rebels demand that President Bozize, who gained power in 2003 through a coup and subsequently won elections in 2005 and 2011, honor the 2007 agreement and open an investigation into the disappearance of former CPJP leader Charles Massi.
Bozize has called in troops from neighboring Chad to back up government forces. An unknown number of Chadian troops are positioned at Sibut, the last remaining significant town between Bambari and the capital Bangui. Zones already under rebel control are rich in diamonds and gold. There are also significant iron ore reserves near Bambari but a planned mine is not yet operational. (The Independent, Bloomberg, Digital Journal, Dec. 24; BBC News, Al Jazeera, Dec. 23