C.Africa strongman accepts Chad summit decisions

Michel Djotodia speaks on Republic Plaza in Bangui on March 30, 2013.  By Sia Kambou (AFP)

Michel Djotodia speaks on Republic Plaza in Bangui on March 30, 2013. By Sia Kambou (AFP)

BANGUI (AFP) – The Central African Republic’s rebel strongman Michel Djotodia has accepted the outcome of a regional summit on the country’s crisis, which called for the election of a new interim president following last month’s coup, the prime minister said Thursday.

“I have discussed (the issue) with the head of state (Djotodia), who has given his agreement that this solution be chosen,” said Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, who attended Wednesday’s summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in N’Djamena.

Leaders at the summit refused to accept Djotodia’s role as self-proclaimed president of the poor and strife-torn country after the ouster of elected president Francois Bozize by his rebel Seleka coalition almost two weeks ago.

“As things stand now, it is impossible to recognise a self-proclaimed president,” Chadian President Idriss Deby told journalists at the outcome of the summit. The African Union has already suspended the Central African Republic following the coup.

A freshly elected council should take charge of the transition and play an executive role, regional leaders agreed in Chad. Deby said this body must vote for a transitional president who would serve for not more than 18 months.

“This is an agreement that will enable the CAR to come out of isolation, which will enable us to avoid being shunned by the international community. I see no reason why the Seleka should oppose it,” Tiangaye said.

“This national transitional council (CNT) will have to elect the president of the republic and the president of the CNT as a constituent legislative body, which will enable the CAR to avoid sanctions,” he added.

“From the moment when all parts of society will be a part of this institution, that will be a guarantee of legitimacy and legality which will allow us to give more weight to our institutions.”

Djotodia, a former civil servant and diplomat who turned rebel in 2005, grabbed power on March 24 after a rapid assault on the capital Bangui on the grounds that the regime had failed to abide by a January peace deal.

He kept opposition figure Tiangaye in office as head of the government, in line with the accords signed with Bozize in Gabon’s capital Libreville, and vowed to hold elections by 2016.

However, Deby said that a legislative body would be formed to take on the role of a parliament, while a mission of ministers from ECCAS, the African Union and the European Union, among others, would be sent to Bangui on Thursday “to take the message to Central Africans”.

Chad is the region’s dominant military power and hosted the summit as a way to give the Seleka coalition a semblance of legitimacy, according to a diplomatic source.

Bozize, in exile in Cameroon, has accused onetime ally Chad of helping the rebels to oust him after 10 years in power.