Ali Darass, an ex-Seleka militia leader, has been forced to leave the town of Bambari at the heart of the Central African Republic (CAR), where his fighters had established their headquarters, according to reports.
The Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebellion made up of loosely affiliated factions and involved in CAR's bloody sectarian war, were disbanded in September 2013 but the ex-Seleka splintered into several movements over leadership rivalries.
Fighting recently intensified between two ex-Seleka rival factions – the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) and the Union pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC) – around the town of Bambari in the Ouaka prefecture in the centre-east of the country. Dozens have been summarily executed.
The UPC and the UN mission to the CAR (Minusca) confirmed that Darassa left Bambari on Tuesday (21 February) night. According to sources quoted by RFI, Darassa's departure is the result of long negotiations with the UN force, and military pressure from both the Minusca and Adam's FPRC-MPC.
While it remains unclear where Darass currently is, local sources told RFI there are many UPC fighters – armed and in civilian clothes – remaining in Bambari.
In a statement, the UPC said that Darass "is following the security situation very closely and will never let the city of Bambari fall into chaos". The militia leader stands "ready to intervene", his group added.
Meanwhile, the Minusca is hoping to make of Bambari "a city without armed groups".
The force has urged the largely Christian vigilante anti-Balaka group which allied with its former enemy the FPRC to fight the UPC, to leave Bambari. According to reports, the anti-Balaka military zone commander agreed in principle to the request, but on condition that the Minusca finds him and his men a new place to stay.
The UN's aim is to bring back state authority to the area and convince Adam's FPRC coalition to stop attacking Bambari. "The Minusca is there (in Bambari)," Vladimir Monteiro, the UN force's spokesman said. "We have strengthened our capabilities to avoid war and spare civilian populations."