Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:00 am
BRAZZAVILLE(AFP) – Rival armed factions in the Central African Republic agreed to a tentative ceasefire on Wednesday at a peace conference held in neighbouring Congo.
The agreement was signed by representatives of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition and Christian “anti-balaka” vigilante forces — the main players in almost daily sectarian violence that has left thousands dead.
A copy of the draft agreement obtained by AFP stated that a cessation of violence would “take effect in the entire territory of the Central African Republic.”
It also stated that signatories would “waive any proposed partition” of the country, something that had earlier been proposed by the Seleka coalition.
The peace talks, which began in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville on Monday, are aimed at reaching an agreement that would see the disarmament and demobilisation of the various militia groups in the country.
While the agreement fell short of what was hoped, Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo and host of the talks, welcomed the outcome.
“The longest journey begins with the first step …, Brazzaville is the first step,” he said after the signing.
Catherine Samba Panza, CAR’s transitional president, said: “A precondition of all [talks] was a cessation of hostilities.”
The latest unrest in the CAR began in March 2013 when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the ruling regime and put Michel Djotodia — the country’s first Muslim leader — in power.
Djotodia stepped down in January under strong international pressure for his failure to rein in rogue ex-rebels, who relentlessly murdered, raped and looted civilians.
In response, largely Christian communities formed “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) vigilante forces who hunted down Muslims in revenge attacks.
France and the African Union deployed about 8,000 peacekeeping troops as of last December, but the violence has continued.
Thousands have died and around a quarter of Central Africa’s 4.5 million population have been displaced in the conflict. Much of the country’s Muslim population have fled their homes, with others sheltering in camps.