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In Bangui, a churchgoer sings during the
BEN CURTIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/2/2013
BANGUI, Central African Republic--Kpademona Marcel and other residents of the capital of Central African Republic have watched in fear as rebels from the country's north seized control of more than half the country in less than a month. On Tuesday, all he could do was pray that a solution to the crisis could be found without the violence reaching Bangui.
"We are afraid for our nation and for our fellow citizens in the countryside," Marcel said, standing on the steps of the Notre Dame Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception before a New Year's Day Mass. "The rebels are imposing themselves on the population and stealing things. We are here praying for peace."
As a new year began, the fate of the capital's 700,000 people remained unclear. Government forces backed by a regional multinational force held a line in Damara, 45 miles from Bangui. The rebels hold the city of Sibut, about 115 miles from Bangui.
While President Francois Bozize, after nearly a decade in power, has proposed a coalition government to include the rebels, a spokesman for the alliance of rebel groups advancing through the country said Monday they did not trust his offer. Former colonial power France already has said it will not protect Bozize's regime, and has about 600 troops in the country just to protect its own interests.
Troops from neighboring nations have arrived in the country. A contingent from Gabon was expected Tuesday. It was due a day after about 120 soldiers flew in from Republic of Congo with a mission to help stabilize the area between rebels and the government forces.
The political instability already has prompted the United States government to evacuate its ambassador and about 40 other people. There have been no mass civilian evacuations from the capital, though many residents have temporarily relocated to the southern side of Bangui.