President of Central African Republic Surfaces in Cameroon

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JOHANNESBURG -- A day after being ousted by rebel forces, President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic surfaced in Cameroon on Monday, according to a statement read on state radio by a senior Cameroonian official. He will remain there temporarily until he finds a more permanent refuge, said the official, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh.

The rebel coalition, known as Seleka, the word for alliance in the Songo language, solidified its grip on the capital, Bangui, and pledged to stick to the terms of an earlier transition plan hammered out in neighboring Gabon that was to lay the groundwork for new elections in two or three years, Reuters reported.

Under that agreement, the rebels, the civilian opposition and Mr. Bozizé's allies were to share power, but the Seleka rebellion claimed that Mr. Bozizé, who himself came to power in a military coup in 2003, was not respecting its terms. They withdrew from the power-sharing deal and returned to the battlefield.

South Africa, meanwhile, announced that 13 of its soldiers had been killed while fighting the rebels near Bangui. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said 200 soldiers battled more than 1,000 rebels, whom he referred to as "bandits."

"They fought a high-tempo battle for nine hours defending the South African military base, until the bandits raised a white flag and asked for a cease-fire," he said at a news conference in Pretoria. "Our soldiers inflicted heavy casualties among the attacking bandit forces."

South Africa had sent 200 of a planned deployment of 400 troops to the Central African Republic as part of an agreement with Mr. Bozizé's government to bolster and train the country's ragtag army.

The high death toll shocked South Africans, many of whom did not know that the country had sent soldiers there and who questioned South Africa's involvement in helping to prop up Mr. Bozizé.

South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, called the deployment of troops there "highly questionable" and declared the mission "a complete disaster from the beginning."

The Central African Republic is one of the most fragile and impoverished nations in the world. It has a long history of military coups and harsh dictatorship, and of meddling by the troubled nations on its borders. Mr. Bozizé came to power with the assistance of Chad, to the north.

The Central African Republic also borders South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, both of which have been at the center of major regional conflagrations.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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