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
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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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
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.
The US has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic (CAR) as rebels threaten to advance towards the capital, Bangui.
The state department said it had not broken off diplomatic ties with the government but warned US citizens not to travel to CAR during the unrest.
Earlier, CAR President Francois Bozize appealed to the US and France to help block the rebel advance.
The UN has said it is evacuating its non-essential staff from the country.
US state department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the embassy had suspended operations and that the ambassador and other staff had left the country on Thursday.
“This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR,” he said in a statement.
Residents are stockpiling food amid fears that the rebels – known as the Seleka coalition – could launch an assault in the next few days.
On Sunday, the rebels captured the northern city of Bambari, the third largest in the country, having earlier seized the rich diamond mining area around Bria.
On Wednesday, protesters in Bangui attacked the embassy of former colonial power France, accusing Paris of abandoning them.
The US has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic as rebels threaten to advance towards capital Bangui
France has about 200 soldiers based in CAR and stepped up security at its embassy after the attack.
President Francois Bozize apologized for the incident and appealed for “our French cousins” and the US “to help us to push back the rebels”.
However, French President Francois Hollande said Paris would not intervene in its former colony.
“If we have a presence, it’s not to protect a regime, it’s to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country, in this case the Central African Republic,” he said.
“Those days are over.”
Seleka, which is made up of breakaway factions from three former armed groups, accuses Francois Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal, under which fighters who laid down their arms were meant to be paid.
The rebels have 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.
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
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.