BANGUI – Rebel groups tried to take control of the Central African Republic capital of Bangui on Wednesday, but were pushed back by members of the country’s armed forces, the UN mission (MINUSCA), Rwandan and Russian troops.
The rebels are opposed to the recent re-election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
The country’s prime minister, Ngrebada Firmin, made the announcement on Facebook.
“In the first hours of the morning, we learned of an attempt by assailants to enter Bangui from several fronts,” he said.
“The assailants came in numbers to take Bangui, but were vigorously repelled,” he added.
Everyday activity came to a halt in the city amid hours of gunfire and clashes. The city’s residents are gripped by anxiety due to the specter of violence.
In a speech broadcast on the radio, the country’s interior minister, Henri Wanze Linguissara, urged calm and offered a phone number for residents to report any disturbances in the city.
At the same time, he banned the circulation of motorbike taxis in the city, stating they were the preferred mode of transportation for rebels looking to move around Bangui.
The minister had warned the UN representative in the CAR on Jan. 5 that there were reports of members of the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic rebel group heading to Bangui in vehicles disguised to mimic those used by MINUSCA.
On Jan. 7, the government ordered a nationwide nighttime curfew in a bid to control any rebel advance on the capital. Three days earlier, the rebels had managed to capture the city of Bangassou in the country’s southeast, eye-witnesses told EFE. MINUSCA denied those reports.
The attempt to seize the capital comes after presidential elections on Dec. 27, which the opposition has refused to recognize.
President Touadera says the militias are acting on the orders of former president François Bozize, who denies the accusation. Bozize was barred from running in the election, but his preferred candidate, Georges Dologuele, lost with just 21% of the votes.
Two-thirds of the CAR, rich in natural resources and minerals like gold and diamonds, has been controlled by militias since a coup d’etat in 2013. The ensuing violence has left thousands dead and more than a million displaced.