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President of C. African Republic dissolves rebels

Friday - 9/13/2013, 3:00pm  ET

JOSE POUAMBI
Associated Press

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- The rebel group that swept to power this March after toppling the Central African Republic's former leader, was dissolved Friday by a decree issued by the very president they installed, according to state radio.

"The Seleka Coalition," said the statement broadcast Friday afternoon, "is dissolved over the length and breadth of the Central African Republic's territory. Only the Central African security force is in charge of protecting our territorial integrity. Any individual or group of individuals who act in the name of Seleka ... after the publication of the present decree ... will expose themselves to the full sanctions under the law."

The Seleka coalition invaded the capital on March 23, ousting the nation's ex-president and installing Michel Djotodia as the country's new leader. Since then the rebels have turned into a band of marauding thugs, looting business and killing civilians, according to reports by human rights groups and aid organizations. International charities say they have been forced to put Seleka rebels on their payroll as guards as insurance against having their premises robbed.

As evidence mounted of abuse by the Seleka rebels, Djotodia tried to distance himself from them. It remains unclear if he can dissolve the fighters that brought him to power without repercussions.

The chief of the Mandaba neighborhood of Bangui said that the move was political and is meant to insulate Djotodia. "The measure taken by President Michel Djotodia will change nothing in terms of the behavior of the militia known as Seleka. President Djotodia is trying to create distance and confusion over the acts of abuse committed by their fighters. This is a measure that was taken for the sake of appearance."

The Central African Republic, located in the lush heart of the continent, has been repeatedly destabilized by coups and rebellion, and remains among the world's poorest nations, despite its resources including mines rich with diamonds.

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Associated Press writer Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.


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