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Central African Republic Interim Leader Denies Genocide Threat

posted 30 Nov 2013, 15:59 by Sam Mbale

Central African Republic interim leader Michel Djotodia denies his country is on the brink of a genocide and an all out inter-religious war, attributing violence to vengeance on previous government.

BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (NOVEMBER 30, 2013) (REUTERS) - Central African Republic transitional leader Michel Djotodia on Saturday (November 30) denied European assertions that his country was on the brink of genocide and all-out inter-religious war.

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The impoverished but mineral-rich nation of 4.6 million has descended into chaos since Djotodia led Seleka rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, to the riverside capital in March, ousting President Francois Bozize.

Though Djotodia has dissolved the rebel coalition, which has been accused of human rights abuses, his government's failure to stem the violence has prompted calls at the U.N. Security Council for international intervention to restore order.

EU humanitarian chief Kristalina Georgieva said the country faced the twin risk of a state collapse and potential genocide because of the increasing tit-for-tat killings between the Christian majority and Seleka-backing Muslims.

Speaking at his residence in Camp de Roux, a colonial military camp on a hill that overlooks the Oubangui River, Djotodia attributed the violence to settling of scores between those loyal to the previous government and some Seleka elements.

"We talk about inter-religious wars, sometimes about genocide, but I don't know who, which group wants to exterminate the other? Who planned to exterminate the other?" Djotodia asked.

"I don't think there's a genocide, there's not even a religious war, all of this is made up, it's to manipulate, to manipulate the opinion of the international community," he said, without elaborating.

Some 460,000 people, a tenth of the population, have fled the sectarian violence that has gripped the landlocked country.

Djotodia blamed the violence on factions supported by the Bozize regime he ousted.

"The big problem is with the former regime, which is still trying to fuel the rebellion here, under the name of Balaka. There you are. They are the ones we should pay more attention to, they are killing right now, they are killing. They want to create a religious war by all means possible. That's what (ousted President Francois) Bozize wants. But there's never been one here," he said.

France is preparing to boost its force in its anarchic former colony to at least 1,000 soldiers once a U.N. resolution is passed next week to improve security until a 3,600-strong African Union (AU) force is operational.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned last week that the country was "on the verge of genocide".

Djotodia said the French army would support his government.

"The French army doesn't come to fight anyone. The French army comes to support the MISCA. Of course if there are bandit movements, like the former Seleka, the Balaka, or from Bozize's side, they will fight, they will fight them, they are here to help us."

In Bossangoa, former President Bozize's home region about 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of the capital, about 40,000 Christians have been displaced, with several thousand seeking refuge at a church.

Djotodia dismissed concerns about them, saying those gathering at the Bossangoa church had done so because they knew they would get free food and water there.

The transitional leader said there was no need for U.N. intervention.

"When a country is at war, things don't work, and one can ask people to come and settle in. But here there's nothing. We don't fight amongst ourselves. We don't fight. Moreover, the MISCA are already going to come in. Let's wait for the MISCA to be ready, with the support of the French," he said, sitting on a embroidered couch with fake gold ornaments.

"If these people come and things still don't work, then that's when we will ask to come under tutelage. But why be under tutelage? We don't need to be under tutelage, we don't need it, we are a sovereign nation. What happened today happened to many countries before us, and are they, did they stay under the tutelage of the United Nations?" he added.

Outside his office, hundreds of his heavily armed fighters in camouflage and red berets loiter about camp, some sleeping on the floor and setting up makeshift tents.