Potential Hot Spots: October 29, 2002

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The rebels, Presidential Guard and Libyans in the Central African Republic appear to reached a "Mexican standoff" in the capital. On the 26th, Bozize claimed responsibility for the attack and demanded that President Patasse negotiate with the opposition or resign. Locals told the UN that the coup plotters entered the city unopposed and had interacted peacefully with the population in the capital's northern suburbs. In addition to occupying half of the northern and southwestern neighborhoods, Bozize's men also captured Presidential Spokesman Prosper Ndouba (who has coincidentally called on the government to negotiate with the rebels).

Since the 26th, thousands of residents have fled from the city's north to the south and looters soon appeared in the vacuum. On the 27th, France condemned all attempts to topple the Patasse government and reaffirmed its report support for the CAR authorities. The French also called on all regions of the Central African region to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the CAR, and recalled the need to implement the Libreville accord. The former French colony has rich diamond mines and possible oil reserves, but remains among the poorest countries on earth. 

But General Bozize was also reported to have returned to Chad on the 27th, and was possibly headed to the front lines. Meanwhile, Libyan troops continued shelling Bangui's northern neighborhoods and Mpoko Airport - which one rebel commander is covered by his 81mm and 120mm mortars (to keep President Patasse from fleeing). 

Heavy machine-gun and mortar fire again rocked Bangui at 11.45 on the 28th and two Libyan fighter jets also bombed opposition positions (killing 50 civilians in the process). The Libyan aircraft were believed to be spending nights at a base in the neighboring DRCongo, given the lack of security of Mpoko Airport.

How far Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi plans to carry this adventure, and to what end, remains an open-ended question. Oil-rich Libya asked to withdraw from the 22-member Arab League on 24 October and while no reason was immediately given for the decision, in September Gaddafi called on Libyans to quit the pan-Arab body as a protest against what he called "official Arab cowardice" in the face of Israel and the United States. Gaddafi was also thwarted by South African President Thabo Mbeki on 19 September, when he quashed the Libyan President's ambitions of creating a grand pan African army by explaining that the African Union's constitution did not envisage the continent as a single state. - Adam Geibel




 

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