December 6, 2015 / 10:20 PM / 2 years ago

Central African Republic dubs rebel leader enemy no. 1

3 Min Read

BANGUI (Reuters) - The Central African Republic government dubbed a Seleka rebel leader "enemy number one" on Sunday in a move likely to further complicate the chances of ending the current wave of political turmoil.

The majority Christian country has been embroiled in a violent crisis since early 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a coup before ceding power to a transitional government after strong international pressure.

The transitional government has been tasked with steering the landlocked country to elections scheduled for Dec. 27. The initial poll date, Oct. 18, was pushed back due to an outbreak of violence that has killed around 100 people in the capital since September.

"The government ... calls on each Central African to be vigilant in resolutely continuing to support the return to the constitutional order that will only be done by the voice of the polls," the statement reads.

But on Sunday it took objection to a statement by Nourredine Adam, a leader of a faction of Muslim Seleka rebels, who said on private radio station Radio Ndeke Luka that underdevelopment in his base region had pushed him and his group to take up arms.

"If they send us doctors and teachers to heal and educate our families, they will be welcome," he said. "But the other government employees, we cannot accept them. The electoral process in the current context is not possible."

The government said in its statement that Adam's threat to block elections amounted to an act of war since he did not respect peace accords and ceasefires. It labeled Adam "enemy number one".

It was not clear whether the government will take further action.

In 2014 the United Nations leveled sanctions including a travel ban and asset freeze against Adam, a Christian anti-balaka leader and Francois Bozize, president until the coup.

Armed men killed eight civilians and one U.N. peacekeeper at a camp for displaced people just days after the Pope's visit last month, the U.N. humanitarian office said Friday.

Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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