CAR interim President Michel Djotodia resigns

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge on the rise and fall of Michel Djotodia

Central African Republic's interim President Michel Djotodia has resigned at a regional summit aimed at ending violence that has engulfed the country.

PM Nicolas Tiengaye also resigned at the meeting in Chad.

Mr Djotodia, CAR's first Muslim leader, seized power last year. Since then 20% of the population have fled fighting between Christian and Muslim militias.

Emergency evacuations are due to begin on Saturday of the first of thousands of foreigners stranded in CAR.

The International Organization for Migration said it would start airlifting around 800 Chadians from the capital Bangui on Saturday.

Some 33,000 Africans from neighbouring countries were in "urgent need of help", it warned.

The UN has warned of an impending humanitarian disaster in the country.

Children celebrate the resignation of interim President Michel Djotodia at Bangui airport camp The resignation of President Djotodia sparked jubilation among Christians in the strife-torn capital Bangui, with many residents expressing hope the violence would now subside
People celebrate in Bangui after the announcement of the resignation of President Djotodia The news that both Mr Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye were going prompted thousands of people to take to the streets, with many shouting "it's over, it's over"
Chadian troops of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) patrol Bangui following the resignation of the president Correspondents say that while patrols by international peacekeepers have prevented mass slaughter in Bangui itself, sporadic killings carry on almost every night
French troops stand guard as anti-Seleka protesters demonstrate following the resignation of the president in Bangui Sporadic gunfire rang out in Bangui after curfew on Friday as French forces reportedly fired warning shots to prevent clashes between rival fighters in one neighbourhood

Since December and the arrival of more regional peacekeepers and French troops, 1,000 people have died in sectarian clashes.

Who is Michel Djotodia?

  • Becomes first Muslim leader of an overwhelmingly Christian country after seizing power from Francois Bozize in March 2013
  • Has led several rebel groups
  • Served as both defence minister and diplomat under previous peace deals
  • Said to have used diplomatic posting in Sudan's Darfur region to forge alliance with Janjaweed militia and fighters from Chad, who played a key role in his seizure of power
  • Officially disbanded his Seleka rebel group but they continue to kill and loot

Many villages are deserted and in the past month the number of those who have fled their homes has doubled - including almost half of those living in the capital.

Following the announcement from Chad, thousands of people took to the streets in Bangui, most of them celebrating the news.

Carine Gbegbe, who has been living in a displacement camp, told the Associated Press news agency: "Finally we are free. We are going to return home at last."

Those celebrating Mr Djotodia's removal were largely Christians, the BBC's Paul Wood reports from Bangui, while Muslims largely stayed at home.

The main demand of Mr Djotodia's opponents had been for him to step down, and many Christians now want to go back to the way things were with their Muslim neighbours, our correspondent says.

However, there were exchanges of gunfire on Friday between rival militias and it is too early to say the violence is at an end, he adds.

French tanks were quickly deployed around the presidential palace.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for a replacement for Mr Djotodia "as soon as possible".

The BBC's Paul Wood: "French troops watched as more and more Christians came out"

Flown in

Mr Djotodia's resignation was made in a statement by the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas).

At the scene

At one demonstration this morning, a Christian man told me: "Now what happened to us will happen to them." As he spoke, others in the crowd sang: "Today, we are going to kill some Muslims." Shortly after that, a car driven by a man with a Muslim skull cap drove into the demonstration. A cry went up from the crowd. He sped off, lucky to escape with his life.

The crowd was joined by Christian vigilantes, known as anti-balaka. They were armed with a variety of crude weapons - knives, clubs, even bows and arrows. Some wore magic amulets they said turned away the enemy's bullets. I asked one of their commanders if they would now seek revenge.

"The Seleka slaughtered our people like animals," he said, referring to the mainly Muslim militia. "We had to kill them to make them afraid of us." But, he continued: "There's been enough killing. It should stop now."

We heard that from a lot of Christians in the crowd. Others though clearly remain angry - and there have been exchanges of fire between Seleka and anti Balaka militias. The president's resignation might just take the steam out of this conflict - but it's too soon to say the bloodshed here is at an end.

The whole 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 Mr 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 Mr Djotodia to his position as interim president last April.

Seleka seized power last March overthrowing the then-President Francois Bozize, from CAR's majority Christian population.

Although Mr 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.

The African Union now has some 4,000 peacekeepers in the country and France has deployed 1,600 troops to try to restore peace.

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