Kotazo's statement, broadcast by government-owned Radio Centrafrique, came in response to persistent reports that rebels loyal to the former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize, were advancing south and obstructing traffic along the road. "That is wrong," Kotazo said. "Our valiant defence and security forces have continued securing that corridor, as they always have." He said government troops were holding Bossembele (157 km northwest of Bangui), Bossentele (295 km northwest of Bangui), Baoro (392 km northwest of Bangui) and Bouar (454 km northwest of Bangui).
The Bangui-Douala road is the main artery for the CAR's imports and exports and, analysts say, is the primary target for the rebels. After failing to depose President Ange-Felix Patasse when they invaded Bangui on 25 October 2002, their goal now seems to be to suffocate Bangui by cutting off its land supply line.
The rebels have already isolated Bangui from the country's agricultural north, centre and the east, triggering price increases in the capital's markets.
Meanwhile, Radio France Internationale announced on Monday that the rebels were appointing new administrative authorities in areas under their control, and organising public rallies to explain their action.
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