“We call on all the sons and daughters of Central Africa, on all members of defence and security forces still loyal to (President) Francois Bozize’s regime… to lay down their arms immediately,” said a statement from the Seleka rebel coalition.
“For reasons of security and protection of civilians, we no longer consider it necessary to wage the battle for Bangui and to send our troops there as General Francois Bozize… has already lost control of the country,” it said.
The statement came a day after the rebels seized the town of Kaga-Bandoro, the fourth regional capital captured since their offensive began on 10 December.
The central African bloc Eccas said on Wednesday that it was sending envoys to persuade the rebels and government to agree a ceasefire.
“The Eccas is in the middle of sending a team on the ground to try and get a ceasefire from one side and the other,” said Nassour Ouaidou, the head of the Economic Community of Central African States.
“It is only after this that we will be able to organise negotiations in which we have high hopes,” he said.
The rebels now control large swathes of the north and the east of the country.
Neighbouring Chad has sent troops into the country after a request from Bozize to try and stem the rebel advance. Chadian troops have previously helped Bozize during rebellions in the north in 2010.
The Central African army is ill-equipped, under-paid and poorly organised and has offered scant resistance to the rebels.
The Seleka coalition is made up of rebels that says the government has not honoured peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011, which offered financial support and other help for insurgents who laid down their arms.
The Central African Republic is a mineral-rich, landlocked country with less than five million residents. It ranks 179 out of 187 countries on the UN’s latest development index and has seen frequent coups and mutinies.- AFP