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Residents of CAR’s capital await attack by rebels

BANGUI — Kpademona Marcel and other residents of the capital of Central African Republic have watched in fear as rebels from the country’s north seized control of more than half the country in less than a month. On Tuesday, all he could do was pray that a solution to the crisis could be found without the violence reaching Bangui.

“We are afraid for our nation and for our fellow citizens in the countryside,” Marcel said, standing on the steps of the Notre Dame cathedral before a New Year’s Day Mass. “The rebels are imposing themselves on the population and stealing things. We are here praying for peace.”

As a new year began, the fate of the capital with 700,000 people, remained unclear. Government forces backed by a regional multinational force held a line in Damara, just 75 kilometres (45 miles) from Bangui. The rebels hold the city of Sibut, about 185 kilometres (115 miles) from Bangui.

While President Francois Bozize, after nearly a decade in power, has proposed a coalition government to include the rebels, a spokesman for the alliance of rebel groups advancing through the country said Monday they did not trust his offer. Former colonial power France already has said it will not protect Bozize’s regime and has about 600 troops in the country just to protect its own interests.

Trucks full of soldiers bounced on the rutted roads of Bangui that are dotted with shacks where people can charge their mobile phones.

Police officers stopped vehicles at intersections in another sign of stepped up security in this capital at the heart of Africa where even the banana and palm tree leaves are coated in heavy red dust from the earth.

Troops from neighbouring nations arrived in the country, with a contingent from Gabon expected Tuesday.

 
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