Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic have rejected a call from the leader of the African Union to enter negotiations with embattled President Francois Bozize. Despite promises of a coalition government with Seleka representation (and threats of A.U. sanctions if the rebel offensive continues) the group said they were “not convinced of the commitments made” by President Bozize. Their response is not surprising: the current hostilities stem from a neglected 2007 accord between Bozize and rebel groups. Seleka claims that Bozize reneged on the terms promised in that agreement, including the release of prisoners and payouts for disarmed fighters.
Seleka, an alliance of three separate rebel groups, began their campaign in the north of the country earlier in December, seizing ten cities and drawing closer to the capital, Bangui. Over the past weeks rebels have claimed they had no interest in capturing Bangui, though they appear poised to do just that. The chorus of international condemnation, from the United Nations Security Council to African regional bodies, has done nothing to persuade them to cease their offensive. At this point, the only obstacles standing in their way are troops from neighboring Chad, called in to support Bozize and the country’s ill-equipped armed forces. Chad, which shares a porous Southern border with C.A.R., has intervened in the country on a few occasions over the past decade to protect their ally Bozize, whom they helped to bring into power.
Bozize is entirely dependent on Chad’s forces should rebels choose to seize the capital, a possibility that looks increasingly likely after Monday’s announcement. Though regional bodies such as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) continue to emphasize a negotiated solution, the rebels clearly have the military upper hand at this stage — place no great faith in Bozize as a negotiator. Bozize has called on Western powers to assist him and, though France has sent in troops, François Hollande has explicitly stated his country’s troops will only be protecting their own citizens. Should the rebels attempt a military coup, Bozize can only hope that Chadian President Idris Deby remains committed to his cause.