Kinshasa — THERE is a glimmer of hope in the crisis-torn Central African Republic (CAR) after one of the country's most feared rebel leaders urged his militants to lay down arms.
Armel Sayo, the president of the fearsome Revolution and Justice (RJ) movement, made the rare call, urging all rebel elements to cease hostilities and integrate the national programme of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR).
Sayo, formerly Minister of Youth and Sports, also acknowledged that the national defense and security forces as well as the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) are the only legitimate forces responsible for the protection and safety of civilians in CAR.
Vladimir Monteiro, MINUSCA spokesperson, said the implementation of the RJ declaration was a positive step in efforts to reclaim peace in the Central African country of 4,5 million.
"MINUSCA looks forward to seeing the elements of the RJ respect the commitments made solemnly by the president of their movement," Monteiro said.
The envoy urged all armed groups to follow the example of the RJ, lay down their arms and join the national DDR programme the UN piloted in 2016.
The predominantly-Christian CAR is torn apart by clashes involving Christian extremists and Muslim radicals.
Muslim Seleka rebels led by Michel Djotodia overthrew the then President Francois Bozize in 2013.
Last year, a fifth of the population fled their homes.
More than 500 000 Central Africans are refugees in neighbouring countries.