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Bangui clashes ‘an attempted coup: Samba Panza

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Catherine Samba Panza

Catherine Samba Panza

Those behind the wave of violence in Central African Republic’s capital were trying to stage a coup, the country’s interim president charged after rushing back from the UN General Assembly.

“This was nothing short of an attempt to take power by force,” President Catherine Samba Panza said in remarks broadcast on national radio late on Wednesday after she returned to Bangui, cutting short a visit to the General Assembly in New York.

Since Saturday, Bangui has been rocked by sectarian clashes which have so far killed 36 people and forced nearly 30,000 from their homes, prompting a UN expert to warn of the risk of civil war if the violence was not brought under control.

With a curfew in force, the city was quiet overnight and by Thursday morning, the welter of barricades set up by protesters had largely disappeared, local residents told AFP.

In her speech, Samba Panza denounced “an orchestrated manipulation by part of the population” to incite people “to rise up and resurrect sectarian conflicts”.

The aim was to provoke the population into “rising up against international forces and certain friendly countries,” she said.

Demonstrators manning the barricades had called for Samba Panza’s resignation and the removal of UN peacekeepers as well as those from France’s Sangaris military force who were deployed to stabilise the country after the sectarian killings of 2013-2014.

She also reiterated a call for the “indiscriminate disarmament” of all armed groups across the country ahead of presidential and legislative elections which were to have been held in October but which will once again be delayed.

The unrest began on Saturday in Bangui’s flashpoint PK-5 neighbourhood after a local Muslim taxi driver had his throat slashed, sparking fears of a return to the deadly sectarian killings which erupted in late 2013.

That wave of violence, which pitted Christians against Muslims and lasted for several months, was triggered by the ousting of president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

UN rights investigators said earlier this year that estimates of between 3,000 and 6,000 dead in that bout of fighting failed to capture “the full magnitude of the killing that occurred”.


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