Central African Republic leader offers ceasefire to rebels

Is the war-torn country of the Central African Republic about to see a ceasefire between warring factions?

Portuguese special forces from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) drive on National Road 1 towards clashes that took place 50 kilometers further down the road between armed groups and the army Central African Republic supported by Russian private security elements, in Boali, on December 22, 2020. (AFP)

President Faustin Archange Touadera on Friday declared a unilateral ceasefire with armed rebel groups who have threatened to overthrow him once already this year in the Central African Republic, with no word on whether the militants would hold their fire.

The president’s surprise decision came with no immediate reaction from rebel spokespersons, and it was unclear why Touadera decided to make such a conciliatory gesture after a long and adversarial dialogue with armed groups.

“Peace is priceless and there is no real peace except that which comes from a frank dialogue between the sons and daughters of a country torn apart by endless crises like ours”, declared Touadera in a speech broadcast on national radio. give peace a chance, regardless of the atrocities and injustices suffered, the sufferings and bruises endured.

He urged the rebel leaders “to finally respect their word and give peace, security and living together a chance, as a guarantee of the socio-economic development of our country”.

Although military operations were due to end at midnight on Friday, Touadera said security forces could still act in self-defense and could also maintain public order without violating the ceasefire. The UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA will continue its operations unaffected, he said.

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In January, rebels attempted to capture the capital but were repelled by security forces after intense fighting on the outskirts of the city.

The mineral-rich country has faced deadly inter-communal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and forced Bozizé out of office.

Anti-Balaka militias, mostly Christians, then retaliated, also targeting civilians on the streets. Thousands of people were killed and most Muslims in the capital fled the capital in fear for their lives.

The country enjoyed a period of relative peace in late 2015 and 2016, but violence escalated again. A peace accord between the government and 14 rebel groups aimed at ending years of fighting was signed in February 2019.

But violence blamed on former CAR President Bozizé and his allies cast doubt on the deal. The latest clashes erupted after the constitutional court rejected Bozizé’s presidential candidacy in December.

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Source: AP