BANGUI (Reuters) - Christian militias in Central African Republic have called for the president and prime minister to resign and have ordered their ministers to pull out of the government, striking a blow to efforts aimed at quelling violence in the country.
The former French colony has been engulfed in turmoil since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition seized power in the majority Christian country in March 2013. The rebels later withdrew from the capital Bangui, but their abuses prompted a backlash by Christian militias, known as ‘anti-balaka’.
Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun has struggled in his efforts to bring Seleka and Christian militia representatives into a power-sharing government and stop a cycle of deadly inter-religious clashes that has killed thousands.
“Faced with the chaotic situation in CAR...the coalition decides...to ask for the departure of Catherine Samba Panza and her prime minister,” Edouard Patrice Ngaissona, who heads the anti-balaka coalition, said in a statement on Monday.
In the document, he blamed Interim President Samba Panza for failing to take action to release a number of anti-balaka members arrested in Bangui and accused her of embezzling financial aid from neighboring countries.
He also claimed she was seeking the return of soldiers from neighboring Chad, which withdrew from an African peacekeeping force in April following allegations of human rights violations and close ties with Seleka.
Samba Panza did not immediately react to the statement but government spokesman Modibo Walidiou Bachir rejected the accusations of corruption during an interview on local radio.
The violence in Central African Republic has forced about one million people to flee their homes. Most Muslims now live in Seleka-controlled areas in the north and east of the country, creating a de facto partition.
Elections meant to complete a return to democracy are due to be held in February. But amid continuing violence, officials in the country - which is rich in diamonds, uranium and gold - believe the polls will be delayed.
In a separate statement also released on Monday, the anti-balaka movement said it was giving its two government ministers 72 hours to resign from the cabinet or “be considered enemies of the people and treated as such”.
The anti-balaka coalition occupies the posts of tourism, arts and culture minister and deputy finance and budget minister.
Seleka, which has rejected Kamoun’s government, expelled several of its members in August after they refused to obey an order to resign from their cabinet positions.
Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Angus MacSwan