Central African Republic’s army, backed by Russian and Rwandan allies, regained full control on Tuesday of a strategic town near the western border with Cameroon that had been attacked by rebel forces last month, the government spokesman said.
The army has been battling a coalition of rebels since the weeks before a disputed Dec. 27 election, in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera won a second term. The violence has forced more than 200,000 civilians to flee their homes.
The rebels attacked Bouar, a market town about 100 km (60 miles) from the border with Cameroon, on Jan. 9. They also attacked the capital Bangui a few days later, although they were swiftly pushed back by the army and U.N. peacekeepers.
The army and its Rwandan and Russian allies entered Bouar on Tuesday morning as the rebels fled without a fight, government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui told Reuters.
He said the government’s objective was to fully secure the 440 km of roadway between Bouar and Bangui. A rebel blockade had stalled imports of food from Cameroon for weeks before several aid trucks were able to reach Bangui on Monday.
“The goal is to dislodge all the armed groups in a sustainable way,” Kazagui said.
The gold- and diamond-rich country of nearly 5 million people has failed to find stability since a 2013 rebellion ousted former president Francois Bozize.
Nearly half of the national territory is occupied by armed groups, the United Nations said last month. (Reporting by Aaron Ross Editing by Peter Graff)