New Seleka leader sworn in 1 week before schedule

Leaders of various components of the Central African Republic's mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group met on Tuesday to formally recognize newly-selected seleka chief Gen. Joseph Ndeko

Leaders of various components of the Central African Republic's mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group met on Tuesday to formally recognize newly-selected seleka chief Gen. Joseph Ndeko

BANGUI – Leaders of various components of the Central African Republic (CAR)'s mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group met on Tuesday to formally recognize newly-selected seleka chief Gen. Joseph Ndeko at a ceremony held one week ahead of schedule.

"The change of plans aims at bringing together the disoriented sub-groups of the Seleka alliance," Gen. Ndeko told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

"This will be part of my mission," he said. "All the components of the alliance are aware of the importance of such a step."

Tuesday's inauguration ceremony, held in the southern city of Bambari – some 375km north of capital Bangui – had initially been slated for May 21.

On Saturday, the militia's upper echelons chose Ndeko as the group's "chief of staff," succeeding Gen. Issa Isaka.

The announcement was made after a two-day conference of the militia's splinter groups in Ndele, some 500km north of Bangui.

Established in August 2012, the Seleka militia was drawn from rebel forces opposed to then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian.

One year later, the Seleka militia managed to remove Bozize from office and install Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, in power. The latter, however, under international pressure, resigned earlier this year, to be succeeded by Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian.

According to sources attending the conference, Ndeko was the most qualified candidate in terms of the criteria set for the post, such as military experience and fluency in French.

Sources with the group say seleka leaders are currently mulling the launch of a political party.

Anti-Muslim violence has escalated since January, when Samba-Panza was elected interim president.

Since last December, thousands, mostly Muslims, have been killed in sectarian bloodletting throughout the country.

The violence has been blamed on the Christian anti-balaka militia, which accuses Muslims of supporting former Seleka rebels blamed for attacking Christian homes, looting property and carrying out summary executions.

According to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 173,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence, while another 37,000 have fled the county.

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