Coup leader adds to his roles
April 01, 2013 10:40 AM

BANGUI, Central African Republic — The Central African Republic’s coup leader further solidified his hold on the government today after announcing that he will serve as both president and defense minister, while other top posts are going to his fellow rebels.

Michel Djotodia, who led the thousands of rebel fighters who overthrew longtime President Francois Bozize just over a week ago, made the announcement in a decree read late Sunday on state radio. Not only will Djotodia hold the defense ministry, but his allies also will control the ministries of mines, commerce, communication, and security and public order, according to a decree issued on letterhead that reads “presidency of the republic.”

Opposition leader Nicolas Tiangaye remains as prime minister in the new government. Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at Chatham House, a London-based institute on international affairs, has described the coup as being about “blind ambition” despite the rebels’ claims they are seeking greater assistance for their homeland in the deeply impoverished northeast. The rebel alliance that overthrew the government was called Seleka.

“All the accounts of Seleka are that they have no development vision for CAR. It’s exclusively about redistribution of patrimony from having captured the state,” Vines said.

“There is so little other activity — capturing the state is sort of the main source of revenue,” he said.

Thousands of Djotodia’s rebels are now residing in the capital, and could be seen today riding on pickup trucks that were sponge-painted brown and black in a kind of homemade camouflage with “Seleka” scrawled across the sides.

Others camped out on cots inside the state-run radio and television buildings, and some sat beside a drained swimming pool at the luxury hotel that Djotodia has transformed into his presidential palace.

Some are identifiable by the head turbans they wear, though others have taken to wearing clothes they took from the Central African army soldiers who fled in the face of the rebel advance. Djotodia, who first rose to prominence as a rebel leader back in 2006, already had served as defense minister since the formation of an ill-fated national unity government in January. That agreement had been backed by regional mediators trying to avert a crisis in the country long wracked by coups and rebellions, and was to allow Bozize to remain in office until 2016. However, the Seleka soon accused Bozize of failing to deliver on his promises and ousted him during fierce fighting that also left 13 South African soldiers dead. Bozize and his family have taken refuge in neighboring Cameroon.

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