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Nearly one year after its imposition in the wake of
a failed coup that shook Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic
(CAR), a nationwide curfew was lifted on Thursday.

U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Curfew lifted nearly one year after failed coup

NAIROBI, 10 May (IRIN) - Nearly one year after its imposition in the wake of
a failed coup that shook Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic
(CAR), a nationwide curfew was lifted on Thursday.

Originally imposed on 28 May 2001 from 21h00 to 6h00, when soldiers loyal to
former President Andre Kolingba launched an offensive against forces loyal
to current President Ange-Felix Patasse, the curfew was scaled back on 31
December 2001, from midnight to 5h00. During these hours, all civilians had
to remain indoors, and only military patrols were allowed to move freely
through cities and towns. In case of emergency, only authorised vehicles
with flashing lights were allowed to circulate, while nocturnal workers such
as security guards and doctors were required to remain within the bounds of
their workplace.

Humanitarian sources in Bangui speculated that the timing of this decision
was due in part to the fact that rebel soldiers who fled across the Ubangui
River to Zongo in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
have been relocated some 100 km from the riparian border and progressively
disarmed, whereas previously, they remained an armed threat just across the
river.

A statement from the office of the president said that the lifting of the
curfew meant that life had returned to normal in CAR. It further noted that
"in taking this decision, the President of the Republic ... counts on the
public-spiritedness and sense of responsibility of all children of CAR."

"On the other hand," it continued, "[the President] sends a strict warning
to all who, refusing obstinately that our country and the people of CAR live
in national peace and harmony, would attempt to take advantage of this
return to normalcy to hatch their harmful plots to challenge our
democratically constituted institutions. They will be considered as
terrorists and will be brought to justice."

Another source in Bangui told IRIN that despite the lifting of the curfew, a
high level of insecurity remained in and around the capital, including
regular armed break-ins and highway robbery.

Bangui was again besieged by hostilities in November 2001, when CAR
government forces tried to arrest CAR former army commander, Gen Francois
Bozize, on behalf of a judicial commission probing the coup attempt of 28
May 2001. Bozize refused to comply with the arrest warrant, asserting that
he had not been given sufficient safety guarantees. Bozize had been
dismissed as army chief of staff on 26 October 2001 after being accused of
involvement in a coup plot. He denied involvement at the time, saying he had
backed Patasse during army mutinies of 1996 and 1997. Soldiers allied to
Bozize came to his defence, and five days of intermittent fighting in the
northern region of the capital ensued before Bozize and his forces were
dislodged and fled northward to the southern Chadian town of Sarh.

CAR authorities then accused Chad of backing Bozize and his supporters, who
repeatedly engaged in confrontations with CAR military forces along the two
nations' common border. Chad later granted Bozize asylum out of
"humanitarian concern", an official of the Chadian Ministry of
Communications told IRIN in January.

Concurrently, Chadian rebels were raiding southern Chad from bases in CAR.
Chad deployed troops "to block the infiltration of CAR troops in Chad", the
Chadian official said at the time, but noted that there had been no direct
confrontation between the armies of the two countries.

Patasse and Chadian President Idriss Deby met in N'djamena on 10 April 2002
to discuss ongoing tensions between the two countries. Following what was
hailed as a successful two-hour meeting, the two leaders announced the
immediate reopening of their common border, and stated that outstanding
issues would be addressed by a bilateral commission of experts and
parliamentarians.

[ENDS]

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