In a statement published on Sunday, President Omar Bongo said the 3-week-old rebel offensive risked destabilising not only Central African Republic and its northern neighbour Chad but also the whole sub-region.
The rebels, who are demanding that President Francois Bozize agree to talks on power sharing, have occupied a number of northeastern towns and are reported to be pushing south, towards the capital Bangui, and also to the west.
Central African Republic is a member of the Central African Monetary and Economic Community (CEMAC), along with Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, Congo Republic and Equatorial Guinea.
Since 2002, CEMAC has had a small peackeeping force known as FOMUC stationed in Central African Republic. It consists of 380 Gabonese, Congolese and Chadian troops.
Bongo said CEMAC "had agreed to the request of the Central African Republic authorities to reinforce FOMUC and ask it to intervene in securing the conflict zones". He gave no details about the strength of the planned reinforcement.
The Central African group also called on the international community to provide "all the necessary financial and logistical support to stabilise this region".
This appeal appeared aimed mainly at Central African Republic’s former colonial ruler France, which has already agreed to provide intelligence and logistical assistance to Bozize’s armed forces.
Chad announced unilaterally on Friday it would send more troops to help Bozize’s government fight off the rebels.
DARFUR CONFLICT SPREADS
Central African Republic and Chad say they are the victims of a wider regional war being waged by Sudan from its violent western Darfur region. They accuse the Sudanese government of sending armed raiders over their borders to destabilise them.
Khartoum denies this. Sudan has fiercely resisted a United Nations plan to take over and expand a struggling African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, where some 200,000 people have been killed in political and ethinic conflict since 2003.
U.N. officials say they hope an agreement to renew talks on Darfur between the Sudanese government and Darfuri rebel groups can help forge a definitive peace in the region.
The government of Central African Republic says the rebels, who have seized the towns of Birao and Ouanda Djalle in the remote and rugged northeast Vakaga prefecture, include Chadian and Sudanese fighters.
Officials say the rebels are reported to be probing south towards the diamond mining town of Bria, and west towards Ndele.
Foreign military experts say they doubt whether the 4,500-strong government army has the capacity to push back the rebel advance — unless they receive significant outside help.
The rebels, who call themselves the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), say many of their fighters are former comrades in arms of Bozize, who seized power in 2003 with Chadian allies. He held and won elections in 2005.
Source : Reuters, By Antoine Lawson, Libreville
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