COTONOU, Benin — Ousted Central African Republic President Francois Bozize is requesting exile in the tiny West African nation of Benin days after rebels invaded and overthrew his government of a decade, officials said.
Bozize has made a request to reside in Benin, the country's Foreign Affairs Minister Nassirou Arifari Bako confirmed late Thursday.
"It is true that he has asked Benin to welcome him but nothing has been decided yet," Bako told The Associated Press. "It's a delicate subject."
Thousands of armed rebels invaded the capital of Central African Republic last weekend, and Bozize and his family fled to neighboring Cameroon amid the chaos. Thirteen South African soldiers were killed in the intense fighting, and an untold number of civilians died.
A South African military official in Uganda said Friday all the wounded South Africans had since been airlifted back to South Africa after being stabilized in Uganda.
Col. Selby Moyo, South Africa's military attache to Uganda, said the government is keeping at least 25 military personnel in Uganda "until the decision to reinforce or withdraw" from the Central African Republic is made by the government in Pretoria. He also denied reports that South Africa was seriously considering sending troops into the Central African Republic with the intention of retaking the capital, Bangui, from the rebels.
Moyo said South Africa was unlikely to go it alone and would need the backing of another African country.
Bozize lived in exile Benin during the 1980s and has made a number of private visits there over the years, observers say. He and his family are members of the Celestial Church of Christ, which originated in Benin.
Bozize had faced threats from a myriad of armed groups since seizing power in 2003 after a rebellion. The latest rebellion was launched in December, when armed fighters began declaring control of towns across the sparsely populated north.
Regional mediators brought the rebels and Bozize together for peace talks in Gabon in January, and an agreement was reached that kept the rebels from attacking Bangui.
However, the accord quickly unraveled as the rebels accused Bozize of failing to deliver on his promises. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president until 2016 just days after Bozize fled.
Associated Press reporter Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda contributed to this report.