Strange rebel alliance to oust CAR newly re-elected leader

After an election marred by violence, the president of the Central African Republic (CAR) has won five more years in power. But his victory is contested and the fate of the country balances on a knife edge.

A disparate jumble of armed groups formed an alliance last month and launched an offensive in a bid to disrupt this crucial vote.

Since the election, fighting has continued in towns nationwide, with the rebels threatening to march on the capital, Bangui. So far, they have been kept away by United Nations peacekeepers, CAR’s armed forces and hundreds of reinforcements from Russia and Rwanda.

The political opposition has said Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s victory lacks legitimacy and are demanding a re-run.

While voters turned out in force in Bangui and some other towns, militants launched a violent and disruptive campaign of intimidation elsewhere – burning ballot boxes, ransacking polling stations and preventing the vote in over 40 per cent of electoral districts in this chronically unstable country.

The rebel alliance calls itself the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC). This formation is new but the armed groups within it have been around for many years.

With origins stretching back to the insurgencies of the 2000s, many of them were involved in the civil war that erupted in 2013 albeit in a different guise. That year, mainly Muslim rebel groups from the lawless north banded together into the so-called Seleka coalition and ousted then-President Francois Bozizé.

The Seleka’s brutal rule prompted the creation of another group of militants known as the Anti-Balaka, drawn mainly from Christian and animist communities. These militias fought back against the rebels and carried out reprisals against CAR’s minority Muslim population, pushing the country deeper into bloodshed.

The Seleka coalition eventually splintered into various rebel factions, often drawn along ethnic lines and known by a bewildering array of acronyms – the FPRC, the MPC, the UPC, 3R and so on.

Along with Anti-Balaka militias, these armed groups have terrorised civilians for years, clashing over the control of mineral resources, such as diamonds and gold, and cattle migration routes, and occupying some two-thirds of the country. -BBC

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