N'DJAMENA: Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia has resigned under intense pressure over his failure to stem the sectarian unrest ripping his country apart, a regional grouping announced Friday.
African leaders meeting in neighbouring Chad to seek a solution to the crisis said they had "noted the resignation" of Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye, whose notoriously fractious relationship with the president had led to political paralysis.
Djotodia was under intense pressure from his peers, who gathered in Chad Thursday in a bid to end the violence that has seen more than 1,000 people killed in the last month alone.
All 135 lawmakers from the landlocked Central African Republic (CAR) had flown to Chad on Thursday at the behest of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno to try to resolve the crisis as it threatened to spill over into neighbouring countries.
Djotodia has come under fire for failing to stem the spiralling violence between the mainly Muslim former rebels who brought him to power last year and militias formed by the Christian majority.
Earlier Friday, thousands of residents in the Central African capital Bangui took to the streets demanding Djotodia's departure.
"We want Djotodia to stand down. We need someone new to lead the country," said one protester, while another said Djotodia should "stay in N'Djamena", accusing him of responsibility for a "massacre".
Although he was already due to step down when a transition period expires in a year's time, his inability to rein in chaos across the country prompted calls for a swifter change in leadership.
Deby, Central Africa's perennial kingmaker, had opened the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) summit Thursday with stark words seen as a push to remove Djotodia.
"The CAR is suffering deeply from the actions of its own sons, who are dragging their country down into a war that jeopardises its future," he said.
Deby called for "concrete and decisive action" to halt the violence pitting Muslims against Christian self-defence militias that has killed more than 1,000 people in the past month.
Looming humanitarian crisis Regional leaders are anxious to stem the crisis as there are fears that the unrest is extending beyond the mineral-rich Central African Republic.
The United Nations has warned that both ex-Seleka rebels and CAR former soldiers have crossed into the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo, causing local residents to flee.
Many troops fled their home country when the Seleka rebels launched their coup. The rebels in turn were pushed out when French and African peacekeepers arrived in the country in December.
Although mass slaughters have mostly ceased in Bangui itself amid frequent patrols by the peacekeepers, sporadic killings carry on almost every night.
A humanitarian disaster is also looming with almost a million people having fled their homes in a nation of about 4.6 million people.
Some 100,000 of them have set up camp in one tent city alone near Bangui airport, close to the peacekeepers' bases.
UNICEF has warned of a potential disaster in overcrowded camps in and around the capital, where there have been several cases of measles, which could be deadly. Relief agencies have joined in a vaccination campaign.
EU nations are considering whether to join in the French and African peacekeeping operations in the country, with a meeting on the issue scheduled for Friday.