Central African Republic’s interim president resigned Friday under pressure from fellow leaders at a regional summit to end the violence in his country.
Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye resigned at the regional meeting in Chad.
Djotodia, a Muslim, took power in a coup last year, almost immediately plunging his landlocked, predominantly Christian country into violence. The U.N. voted last month to send French and African Union troops in an attempt to restore stability. As Hannah McNeish reported on All Things Considered at the time:
“Brutal sectarian violence has engulfed the mostly Christian country since March, when the first Muslim leader assumed power after a coup.
“Armed gangs of Muslim extremists joined by mercenaries from neighboring countries now control most of the country. Armed Christian forces are fighting back. Slaughter, rape and torture are widely reported.”
Thousands have been killed and thousands more uprooted in the conflict, which NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton calls “a devastating situation for the civilians who cannot leave.”
Ofeibea told Morning Edition on Friday that prior to Djotodia’s ascent to power, Central African Republic “had some sort of stability” over the past decade. But, she says, the scale of the violence and Djotodia’s inability to control it resulted in regional leaders pushing him to step down:
“Regional leaders have realized that there’s no way that he can quell the violence that has become absolutely uncontrollable. We’re talking about tens of thousands of civilians, some in the capital, Bangui, just alone. They’ve taken refuge at the international airport, you know, under the wings of aircraft because the French, the former colonial power, its troops are in charge of the airport. People are so terrified. And there’s no way that this Muslim-led government was able to stop the violence. But with the departure of Michel Djotodia and his prime minister, will it make a difference? It seems that this conflict has taken on a life of its own, and, of course, its civilians who are caught in the crossfire.”
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Friday the situation in the country has “gone from bad to worse.”
“I urge all political actors in the country to work urgently to restore security and law and order, and to address the root causes of the persisting instability,” he said.