25 February 2013

Central African Republic: Cantonment of CAR Rebels Postponed

Amidst accusations that the government of President François Bozizé has not respected certain terms of the January 11, 2013 Libreville Peace Accord, the beginning of cantonment of Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic, CAR, that was scheduled to begin on Sunday, February 24, 2013, has now been postponed indefinitely.

Radio France Internationale, RFI quoted the government as saying there were technical hitches that needed to be resolved, but it is understood Seleka rebels are opposed to the cantonment that was announced on Saturday, February 23, 2013 by the Central African Multinational Force, FOMAC. The rebels are resisting the first step of demobilisation of their men, accusing the government of President Bozizé of failing to respect certain crucial terms of the peace agreement like the freeing of political prisoners and the departure of foreign troops, explained Eric Massy, spokesman for the rebels.

Massy complained of the recent arrest by government of three rebels, saying the situation had created resistance among his troops, with some of them threatening to return to the bush. Christophe Gazam Betty, Minister of Communication and himself a Seleka member, explained that the postponement was agreed with Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye. He called on the public in rebel zones to be patient, assuring that the demobilisation process will be carried out fast, as the political will was there. Cantonment was expected to begin with 1,700 troops in the rebel-held town of Damara.

Commenting on the Brazzaville Peace Accord, former Prime Minister and opposition leader, Martin Ziguélé said he was satisfied with the agreement because it had put an end to fighting. He however expressed concern at alleged abuses by soldiers and the plight of 15,000 CAR refugees still stranded in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. He expressed hope that Seleka will bring erring rebels to order.

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