C. African Republic council to pick interim leader

AP News
Posted: Apr 06, 2013 12:59 PM

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic's self-appointed leader on Saturday announced the creation of a new council that will choose an interim president, a move aimed at placating the international community after he seized power by force two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the government reduced the hours of a curfew in place since the government's overthrow, even as gunfire crackled across the city of 700,000 after dark each night.

Michel Djotodia issued a presidential order setting up the council to lead a transitional government until elections can be held within 18 months. The announcement follows condemnation from the United States, which has failed to recognize his presidency.

Djotodia initially said he would rule until 2016, though later shortened the timeframe at the urging of heads of state from neighboring countries.

"The high council of transition will be tasked with electing a president of the republic, a head of state with a mandate of 18 months," Djotodia said in the edict.

The formation of the transition government though could further cement Djotodia's leadership as he is not barred from being among the candidates for the interim presidency.

"He is not excluded so I don't know why he couldn't run," Information Minister Christophe Gazam Betty said.

In December, Djotodia's fighters first began threatening to overthrow longtime President Francois Bozize, who himself seized power after a rebellion a decade ago.

Bozize and the rebels known as Seleka signed a peace accord in January to create a unity government along with the political opposition, though that deal came down amid accusations of mistrust and broken promises.

The rebels advanced on the capital on March 23, and Bozize fled into exile the following day as fighters took over the presidential palace.

The U.S. later said that the only "legitimate" leader in Central African Republic is the prime minister, an opposition figure appointed to the post as part of the January deal.

The body tasked with choosing an interim president will include nearly 100 participants, 10 of whom will come from Djotodia's Seleka alliance. Another six slots are going to the opposition, while nine seats are being given to Bozize allies.

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It was not immediately clear how quickly the participants would choose a transitional leader, though the establishment of a selection process appears aimed at legitimizing and solidifying Djotodia's credentials as president.

Central African Republic has been wracked by a series of coups and rebellions since its independence from France in 1960. The country is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium through the chronic instability and lack of infrastructure has kept many foreign investors from working in the country.

Looters attacked the capital in the aftermath of Djotodia's ascension to power, targeting not only homes and businesses but also aid groups. A curfew remains in effect from midnight until 4 a.m., after two weeks of restricting people to their homes by 9 p.m.


Associated Press writer Jose Richard Pouamba contributed to this report.