Fri January 10, 2014
Central African Republic President Resigns
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We have a development, this morning, in one of the tragic conflicts we've been following in Africa. The president of Central African Republic resigned this morning. Local and international pressure had been building against President Michel Djotodia. He took power in a military coup last spring, plunging the country into a multi-sided civil war. Some of the fighting has just been bands of soldiers pillaging and killing civilians. Much of it, though, has also broken down into Muslim verses Christian violence. Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been uprooted. African and French troops are on the ground trying to bring calm, while peace talks are underway in neighboring Chad. We're joined now by NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, she's tracking events from Ghana. And Ofeibea, remind us, if you can, some of the background here. I mean, this interim president led an opposition movement, mainly in the minority Muslim population that they came to power last spring. What's happened since then?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Over the past ten years, or so, it had reached a plateau and had some sort of stability and an elected president. When the rebels, mainly Muslim rebels, in this predominantly Christian country started a fight. By March, Michel Djotodia, a former rebel and the country's first Muslim leader, was then the interim president of Central African Republic and a long-time opposition leader, who has also resigned today, became the prime minister. And then there was trouble. For decades, Christians have lived side by side in peace, David. But apart from pillaging, and looting and uprooting thousands of civilians, the sectarian aspect of this conflict arose, and that means Christians and Muslims have been killed in the fighting between former Muslim rebels and Christian militias who say that they set up vigilantes to protect the Christian community.
GREENE: Ofeibea, Djotodia has been under a lot of pressure to resign. Why is he stepping down now and is this possibly a step towards peace?
QUIST-ARCTON: Why is he stepping down now? Because regional leaders have realized there is no way that he can quell the violence that has become absolutely uncontrollable. We're talking about tens of thousands of civilians. Some, in the capital of Bangui, just alone, they are - they've taken refuge at the international airport, you know, under the wings of aircraft, because the French, the former colonial power, its troops are in charge of the airport. People are so terrified. And there was no way that this Muslim-led government was able to stop the violence. But, with the departure of Michel Djotodia and his prime minister, will it make a difference? It seems that this conflict has taken on a life of its own. And, of course, it's civilians who are caught in the crossfire. And, you know, people are saying, how come? How come this happened? We were living with our neighbors who we've known for years, Muslims or Christians, and now, suddenly, they have become our enemies. The people just want peace.
GREENE: Who takes over power now, Ofeibea?
QUIST-ARCTON: We're waiting to hear from this emergency regional summit across the border in Chad, what is going to happen. But even - I mean, whoever takes over, who can possibly control the situation? There's a big question mark about the future of the Central African Republic, but it is a devastating situation for the civilians who cannot leave.
GREENE: All right, we've been talking to NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton about the resignation of the interim president in Central African Republic. Ofeibea, thanks as always.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thanks David.
GREENE: This is NPR News.
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