President's resignation brings rare hope to C. AfricaAgence France-Presse . Bangui / New Age Online
The resignation of the Central African Republic's rebel leader-turned-president raised hopes Saturday of an end to sectarian strife that has pushed the nation to the brink of collapse.
Under intense diplomatic pressure, Michel Djotodia stepped down Friday during a special regional summit in Chad, which called his move a ‘highly patriotic decision’.
Djotodia had come under fire for failing to rein in the mainly Muslim rebels who brought him to power in March 2013 and whose abuses triggered retaliatory violence by Christian militias.
Prime minister Nicolas Tiangaye, whose notoriously bad relations with Djotodia had crippled the state's ability to take any decisive action against armed gangs, also quit.
In Bangui, news of the double resignation was greeted with joy, with thousands of people descending on the streets, shouting ‘it's over, it's over’.
Ten months of violence have displaced a fifth of the country's population and the sectarian flare-up has killed more than 1,000 people in the past month alone, despite former colonial power France's military intervention.
‘This guy (Djotodia) drove the country into the ground, he is a demon,’ said Tertus Ngoupou, seeking refuge at a huge camp near the airport alongside tens of thousands of Christians fleeing inter-religious clashes.
‘If God wills it, from tonight Christians and Muslims will live in harmony and I will be back in my home by Sunday.’
Djotodia, whose Seleka rebellion descended on Bangui from the Chadian border in late 2012, became the Christian majority nation's first Muslim president last year.
He struggled, like many of his predecessors, to extend any real influence beyond the capital but Bangui's Muslims fear his resignation may egg on vengeful Christians.
‘There are whispers, rumours. I've heard we are going to be attacked when Djotodia steps down,’ a young Muslim salesman who gave his name as Osmane told AFP.
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