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UN retakes Central African Republic town from rebels

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A town in the Central African Republic has been retaken by the United Nations from rebels who seized it on Tuesday, the UN said.

“The situation in Bambari is under control,” Abdoulaziz Fall, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA, told a press conference in the CAR capital Bangui on Wednesday.

“The civilians are starting to return. The armed groups have been pushed back into the bush.”

The attacks in the CAR’S fourth-largest town come as the country faces elections on Sunday 27 December.

Last weekend, the government accused ex-president Francois Bozize of plotting a coup with armed groups ahead of the vote.

Bozize denies the allegations of an attempted coup.

At the request of the government, Russia and Rwanda sent hundreds of troops.

How was Bambari seized?

The town is 380 kilometres (240 miles) northeast of Bangui.

On Tuesday, a militia called Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) overran Bambari.

Sources said two hours of fighting ensued with MINUSCA, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the CAR.

The town mayor said on Tuesday that civilians had not been attacked, but the police station, gendarmerie and some homes had been ransacked.

Election tensions

Bozize came to power in a coup in 2003. But he was overthrown himself in 2013.

The 74-year-old former general came back into the country in December 2019 after years in exile-

Bozize has a large following, especially among the Gbaya ethnic group, the country’s largest, and has many supporters in the army.

He has been barred from running in Sunday’s elections by the CAR’s top court because he is the target of a 2014 arrest warrant for alleged murder and torture and is under UN sanctions.

The incumbent, Faustin-Archange Touadera, 63, is the clear frontrunner in the 17-strong field of presidential candidates.

But Touadera’s government remains weak and the armed forces are poorly-equipped and remain heavily dependent on MINUSCA.

Fragility

The government and armed groups signed a peace deal in February 2019, but the country still has bouts of violence.

Militias hold sway over two-thirds of the territory, deriving income from mining and forced payments at roadblocks and on traders.

In the last seven years, thousands have died and nearly a quarter of the population of 4.7 million have fled their homes.