The president of the Central African Republic says he won’t resign, as he prepares for negotiations with rebel groups whose violent actions over the past weeks have triggered the exodus of a number of aid groups.
“Does the rebellion represent the Centrafrican people? I don’t need to negotiate the position of head of state,” President Francois Bozize said at a press conference in Bangui, the country’s capital.
His statement comes ahead of talks among the government, the opposition and the rebels this week that aim to address the “peace, security and development” of CAR, the government’s chief mediator Willibro Sako was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.
Bozize has proposed to form a coalition government. But the rebels, which have seized a number of towns, have turned down the offer.
The talks will be crucial in restoring peace in the country, which has been rattled by rebel advances since December. The security situation has prompted many aid groups to temporarily evacuate staff members, including all international staff of the World Food Program, whose warehouses in three rebel-held areas were looted following their departure.
“In the three rebel-held cities — Bambari, Bria and Kgabandoro — we have confirmation that the food is lost and also that our office and the guesthouse where the staff was located had been attacked and looted,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs told reporters.
WFP — and other agencies — are awaiting the outcome of a U.N. security assessment underway in Bangui before deciding on whether to resume humanitarian operations in the country. While its national staff remain in the country, the program has not been able to get relief items such as food to rebel-held areas due to insecurity.
Aid groups are looking into deploying an assessment team in the conflict-affected areas, but Byrs said they “still need the green light” for the assessment, which is also set to take place this week.
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