On New Year's Eve, Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia addressed the nation.He praised his former Seleka supporters for carrying out the successful coup in March of last year that ousted President François Bozizé and his political party, KNK.
"This sacrifice that we gave is for the people of Central Africa," Djotodia said. He also accused Bozizé and his followers of staging an armed rebellion this past December in an attempt to prevent Djotodia's transitional government from succeeding. I have no doubt these groups are supported by the dethroned president and some of his compatriots. They are responsible.
"After taking shots at his rival, Djotodia spoke directly to the people of CAR, including the more than 1 million displaced by the fighting who have sought shelter near the airport in the capital city of Bangui — the French military presence there offers some protection from the violence — and in the country's schools, churches, and mosques. "I strongly encourage all those who fled their homes to return back home and find a normal life," Djotodia said.
He then called on people to resume working in order to avoid an economic collapse. (Two days later, the parliament building remained unoccupied, and much of the country's public sector was still shut down.) The internally displaced persons camp near Bangui's airport now has more than 100,000 people living in it. About 1,000 of them protested on the airport's runway, shutting down CAR's sole lifeline to the outside world. The protesters demanded that Djotodia step down and that international aid organizations increase the amount of help they're providing the country. There were reports that the French military used tear gas to clear the runway.
On January 2, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Bangui to address French troops and show support for two soldiers who were killed last month.
"You have just lost two of your comrades," he said. "I am sure it was a huge moment of sorrow ... and at the beginning of this new year my first thoughts are for them. I pay homage to their courage and bravery, and show solidarity to their families and their comrades."
Today, the only functioning institution in the country appears to be Bangui's Hotel Ledger Plaza, a five-star establishment where many ex-Seleka generals and other well-connected government officials have taken refuge from the violence.