BANGUI, 14 January (IRIN) - The
Central African Republic (CAR) deputy defence minister, Gen Xavier Sylvestre
Yangongo, denied on Tuesday reports that rebels had taken the city of Bouar,
454 km northwest of the capital, Bangui.
"It is scandalous and crude. Bouar has a very big military garrison," he told IRIN.
He was responding to reports in a local daily newspaper, Le Confident, which claimed that rebels led by Gen Francois Bozize, the former CAR army chief of staff currently in exile in France, had taken Bouar.
Situated on the main road linking Bangui to the Cameroonian seaport of Douala, through which most CAR imports and exports are channelled, Bouar is a strategic city in that it has airstrip and a former French military base that has been transformed into a CAR army training camp.
Bouar is the capital of Nana Mambere, a province bordering Ouham Pende Province, which is partly occupied by rebels. Government forces and their ally, the Mouvement de liberation du Congo, recaptured Bozoum (384 km northwest of Bangui), the capital of Ouham Pende, on 20 December 2002. Bozoum is about 100 km east of Bouar.
Yangongo said Nana Mambere Province had received many internally displaced people from Ouham Pende. "The humanitarian situation is catastrophic in that area," he said, lamenting that humanitarian NGOs had not assisted those displaced. UN humanitarian agencies are still negotiating with the government, as well as the rebels, in a bid to gain access to remote zones under their control.
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