Central African Republic rebels agree to peace talks

Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 00:00

Rebels threatening to march on Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, have agreed to start peace talks after regionally backed troops warned that they would block any further advance.

Seleka, a loose alliance of rebel groups, has seized numerous towns since rising up three weeks ago and its fighters are within 45 miles of Bangui. They accuse President François Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace agreement and failing to pursue national reconciliation.

Mr Bozize, who criticised his army for allowing the rebels to advance, asked France, the former colonial power, for protection but was rebuffed.

Chad, the Central African Republic’s northern neighbour, sent 400 troops across the border but waited until Monday to warn the rebels not to proceed past Damara, the last strategic town before the capital. Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon have also pledged 120 soldiers each to a regional peacekeeping force to help protect Bangui.

Political transition

“I have asked our forces not to move their positions starting today because we want to enter talks in Libreville [Gabon’s capital] for a political solution,” Seleka spokesman Eric Massi said yesterday. “I am in discussion with our partners to come up with proposals to end the crisis, but one solution could be a political transition that excludes Bozize.”

On Tuesday Mr Bozize offered to negotiate with the rebels but said he should be allowed to finish his term in 2016 before standing down. He has been in power nearly 10 years after leading a military coup in 2003 and winning elections in 2005 and 2011.

– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013)