Ex-Central African Republic head seeks support in Africa: source

Reuters

By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - Deposed former Central African Republic President Francois Bozize is in east Africa in all likelihood seeking support to regain power, a senior French diplomatic source said on Thursday.

Bozize, who ruled the former French colony for a decade, fled to Cameroon in March after rebels captured the riverside capital Bangui. He arrived in France in July and told media he nurtured ambitions of returning to power.

"He is no longer in France," said the source. "He is in east Africa trying to find support in the complicated games pitting Sudan against South Sudan, and Uganda against Sudan."

Uganda has close ties with South Sudan and supported its push for independence from Khartoum. By contrast, Kampala's relations with Sudan are strained: it accuses Khartoum of backing Lord's Resistance Army rebels terrorizing the region.

The diplomatic source said Bozize was travelling between the Southern Sudanese capital Juba, Kampala and Ethiopia.

Armed intervention by Bozize, who had come back from exile to seize power in 2003, would risk plunging CAR into a full- blown civil conflict, but the source appeared to play down that possibility for the time being.

"Bozize is trying to make us believe that he is behind it and is controlling it all, but I think his influence on things is limited," the source said.

Mineral-rich Central African Republic has been in chaos since mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized the capital, the latest in a series of coups in one of the world's poorest states.

France is alarmed at the worsening situation and has pushed for a U.N. Security Council resolute to consider international intervention, due to be voted on Thursday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius travels to Bangui on Sunday.

Christian militias, claiming to be pro-Bozize, have sprung up to defend communities against Muslims fighting for Seleka, which was officially disbanded by the transitional government.

Around 60 people have been killed in sectarian clashes between militias and former rebels this week.

The French source said Bozize's influence over the militia was limited. "It's simply people trying to defend themselves and that's the problem. They are committing reprisals against Muslims, creating a vicious circle of vengeance," he said.

France, which intervened to oust Islamist rebels from Mali in January, has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis. It has 400 troops protecting Bangui airport.

It has urged African nations to do their utmost to resolve the crisis. The African Union has so far deployed about 2,500 troops as part of its MISCA mission.

The U.N. Security Council resolution on Thursday will call on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit a report by mid-November on possible international support for MISCA. A second resolution voted by December could then provide a U.N. mandate.

(Reporting By John Irish; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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