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Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) has banned the use of mobile phone text messages.

The move is aimed at helping to restore security after more than a year of deadly ethnic and religious violence.

The ban comes after days of violent demonstrations in the capital, Bangui, and a mass text campaign calling for a general strike.

The Central African Republic has banned the use of mobile phone text messages

The Central African Republic has banned the use of mobile phone text messages

The protesters want the transitional government that came to power in January to resign.

The CAR conflict began last year as mainly Muslim Seleka rebels, led by Michel Djotodia, seized power in the majority Christian country.

Michael Djotodia resigned as president in January under diplomatic pressure, but a interim government and French and African peacekeepers have failed to stop the violence between Christian and Muslim militia groups.

Mobile phone users in CAR now get a message in French saying “SMS not allowed”.

“On the instruction of the prime minister… in order to contribute to the restoration of security in the country, the use of SMS by all mobile phone subscribers is suspended,” Reuters news agency quotes the telecommunications ministry statement as saying.

According to the French news website Jeune Afrique, a letter was sent to CAR’s four phone mobile operators ordering them to suspend their SMS texting service until further notice.

Central Africa Republic’s interim President Michel Djotodia has resigned.

Michel Djotodia made the announcement at a regional summit in Chad aimed at ending violence that has engulfed the country.

CAR’s entire transitional assembly is attending the meeting in Chad organised by regional leaders.

Michel Djotodia, CAR’s first Muslim leader, had been resisting pressure to go.

His seizure of power last year has led to 20% of the population fleeing their homes amid fighting between Christian and Muslim militias.

The UN has warned of an impending humanitarian disaster.

Since December and the arrival of more regional peacekeepers and French troops, 1,000 people have died in sectarian clashes.

Michel Djotodia is CAR's first Muslim leader

Michel Djotodia is CAR’s first Muslim leader

Many villages are deserted and in the last month the number of those who have fled their homes has doubled – including almost half of those living in the capital city, Bangui.

Michel Djotodia’s resignation was made in a statement by the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

CAR PM Nicolas Tiengaye, with whom he had a fractious relationship, has also resigned, the AFP news agency reports.

Earlier ECCAS Secretary-General Ahmat Allami said members of CAR’s National Transitional Council (CNT) had been flown in at short notice to decide the leadership of their nation.

The lawmakers met regional leaders while Michel Djotodia held separate talks with allies from his former Seleka rebel alliance, AFP reported.

Under a deal brokered by regional powers last year, the CNT was charged with choosing a transitional leader to take CAR to elections due at the end of 2014. It formally elected Michel Djotodia to his position as interim president last April.

Earlier on Friday, thousands of people in Bangui took to the streets demanding the resignation of Michel Djotodia, a former Soviet-trained civil servant.

Seleka seized power last March overthrowing the then-President Francois Bozize, from CAR’s majority Christian population.

Although Michel Djotodia officially disbanded the Seleka rebels, he has proved unable to keep them in check.

Their actions have prompted Christians to form vigilante groups, sparking a deadly cycle of revenge attacks.

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French soldiers have reached the town of Bossangoa in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has been paralyzed by communal fighting.

France is deploying 1,600 troops to help end the fighting in the CAR, alongside a larger African Union force.

The CAR has been in turmoil since the president was ousted in March.

Francois Bozize was overthrown by a rebel alliance known as Seleka in March. Its leader, Michel Djotodia, took over as president.

Armed gangs, mainly former Seleka rebels, now control most of the landlocked country.

The town of Bossangoa in the Central African Republic has been paralyzed by communal fighting

The town of Bossangoa in the Central African Republic has been paralyzed by communal fighting

Recently the violence in the chronically unstable country has taken on a sectarian tone, with Muslim and Christian communities pitted against one another.

French President Francois Hollande said he believed security could be restored within six months.

Around 80 French troops reached Bossangoa late on Saturday.

Some 30 people have been reported killed there in the past three days and African peacekeepers have been struggling to help nearly 1,000 displaced civilians who have fled to their base.

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Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken the capital, Bangui, after President Francois Bozize fled.

Witnesses reported gunfire as the Seleka rebel coalition took the presidential palace, followed by chaos and looting in the city centre.

Francois Bozize arrived with his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese official said.

The rebels, involved in an on-off rebellion since December, say President Francois Bozize failed to honor a peace deal.

On Sunday, witnesses and government officials confirmed that they had taken control of Bangui.

South African peacekeepers in CAR to support government troops suffered casualties but failed to stop the rebel advance.

Justin Kombo Moustapha, secretary-general of Seleka, appealed for calm and called on citizens to “welcome the revolutionary forces of Seleka”.

“Central African Republic has just opened a new page in its history,” he said in a statement.

Nelson Ndjadder of Seleka’s CPSK faction said the country should now move into a transition towards democratic elections.

“With the taking of Bangui and the departure of Bozize, the main objective of our struggle has been realized,” he said.

“Central Africans must meet around a table to decide the path for their common future.”

Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken the capital, Bangui, after President Francois Bozize fled

Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken the capital, Bangui, after President Francois Bozize fled

A Paris-based rebel spokesman Eric Massi told AFP news agency that the rebels had secured Bangui and military camps and were deploying across the capital “to launch security operations and prevent looting”.

However, Amy Martin of the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, said looting was happening.

“The situation in town is chaotic in the sense than communities are looting properties, private properties, even a paediatric hospital we understand has been looted,” she said.

“Our main concern right now is at the community level, with the looting and the possible tensions between various ethnic groups.”

South African troops retreated to their barracks and were seeking safe passage to the airport, Amy Martin said.

She added that Bangui been without power since Saturday, and that this meant water had also been cut.

Amy Martin also said the situation in the interior thought to be worse than in the capital, more than 170,000 estimated to have been displaced within the country and others fleeing to Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said Francois Bozize’s wife, children and other relatives had fled to the Congolese town of Zongo.

Francois Bozize also travelled to Zongo, from where he was expected to be moved with his family to the district capital of Gemena, said a Congolese official.

UN officials said 26,000 people had arrived in Zongo from CAR, and the numbers were rapidly increasing.

Former colonial power France has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

It has sent 350 soldiers to ensure the security of its citizens, a senior official told AFP, bringing the total number of French troops in CAR to nearly 600.

“I call upon all sides to show the greatest restraint,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, urging French nationals to stay at home.

The UN Security Council voiced concern about the rebel advance on Friday, amid reports of killings, rapes and torture.

The rebels joined a power-sharing government in January after talks brokered by regional leaders to end a rebellion they launched last year.

But the deal quickly collapsed, with the rebels saying their demands, including the release of political prisoners, had not been met.

Observers say Francois Bozize kept the army weak because he was afraid of a military coup.

He came to power himself in a coup in 2003.

CAR, which has a population of about 4.5 million, has been hit by a series of rebellions since independence from France in 1960.

CAR is one of the poorest countries in Africa, despite its considerable mineral resources.

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France’s President Francois Hollande has ordered tighter security for his country’s embassy in the Central African Republic (CAR), after it was attacked by protesters.

Francois Hollande also told the defence minister to provide extra protection for French citizens there.

Demonstrators threw stones at the embassy in the capital Bangui and tore down the French flag.

They want France to help quash a rebellion in the north of the country.

France, the former colonial power in the CAR, has about 200 soldiers based there, and the government in Bangui has appealed for France to intervene against a rebel movement which has taken several northern towns.

The protesters said France had abandoned them. Protests were also staged outside the Air France office in the city.

The French ambassador has complained to the government over the incidents.

President Francois Hollande has ordered tighter security for French embassy in the Central African Republic, after it was attacked by protesters

President Francois Hollande has ordered tighter security for French embassy in the Central African Republic, after it was attacked by protesters

France Hollande said he had ordered Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to take “all necessary” protective measures to guarantee the security of the embassy.

The Defence ministry said the embassy perimeter had been secured with the deployment of French troops.

Analysts say Paris is increasingly reluctant to interfere in its former colonies and a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry told Reuters news agency the crisis needed to be resolved through dialogue.

Rebels in northern CAR on Sunday captured the key city of Bambari, the third largest in the country, having earlier seized the rich diamond mining area around Bria.

The rebels – known as the Seleka coalition – accuse President Francois Bozize of failing to honor a 2007 peace deal, under which fighters who laid down their arms were meant to be paid.

Seleka, which is made up of breakaway factions from three of the former armed groups, has pledged to depose Francois Bozize unless he negotiates with them.

They began their campaign a month ago and have taken several towns in their push towards the capital.

It is unclear how far they have advanced towards Bangui, but an unconfirmed report by Reuters news agency on Sunday quoted sources saying they were only 75 km (47 miles) away.

President Francois Bozize, who seized power in a coup in 2003, has repeatedly relied on foreign intervention to fend off rebellions and the spill-over from conflicts in neighboring Chad and Sudan.

Chad has deployed 150 soldiers to try to stem the rebel advance.

The United Nations has ordered all its non-essential staff to be evacuated due to the worsening security situation.