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Commercial lorries reach C.Africa capital after rebel blockade

Central African Republic.  By  (AFP)
LISTEN FEB 17, 2021
Central African Republic. By (AFP)

A convoy of commercial lorries has reached the Central African Republic capital of Bangui for the first time in weeks after a key supply route was blocked by rebels, the government has announced.

The lorries arrived on Tuesday, more than a week after an aid convoy reached the capital for the first time in 50 days along the same route from the border with neighbouring Cameroon.

"It's done. The convoy has arrived," Transport Minister Arnaud Djoubaye Abazene told state TV, adding it had left on Sunday.

According to Abazene, rebels sought to block the route but were beaten back.

President Faustin Archange Touadera's government has recently retaken a series of towns from the rebels with help from Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries deployed to shore up the country's depleted military.

Details were not provided on the size of the convoy nor what kinds of goods it was carrying.

The impoverished and landlocked country imports nearly all of its goods by road from Cameroon, and the blockade had led to price hikes for basic products such as flour.

During a normal period, an average of more than 200 lorries enter the country daily through the Cameroonian border town of Garoua Boulai, according to the Cameroonian transport union.

According to United Nations officials, more than 1,600 trucks had been blocked at the border, including 500 with humanitarian aid.

Beginning in mid-December, six rebel groups who had controlled two-thirds of the country united to launch an offensive against Touadera eight days before presidential and legislative elections.

Touadera won re-election but turnout was poor at some 35 percent.

After an unsuccessful attack on the capital, the rebels sought to strangle Bangui by cutting off the supply route before the recent counter-offensive by the military and its allies.

The UN considers the country the world's second-least developed and thousands of people have died since a civil war erupted in 2013.