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CAR president to hold talks with rebels

The Central African Republic’s president said he would soon hold talks with rebel groups as he seeks to restore security after years of sectarian violence.

“Either this week or next week, we will initiate an exchange with representatives of the armed groups, in order to clarify some points,” President Faustin-Archange Touadera told local radio station Ndeke Luka.

“There are many weapons in the country, a lot of banditry,” said Touadera, adding that in parts of the impoverished nation “people cannot go to the fields”.

Referring to a campaign dubbed the “DDR” (disarmament, demobilisation and social reintegration), Touadera said “the process must begin very soon”.

A total of 3,152 former fighters have registered in the DDR programme in the past year, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in Central Africa said in late July.

The Central African Republic descended into bloodshed between Christian and Muslim militias following a coup in March 2013 that ousted long-time leader Francois Bozize.

Thousands died in the violence and more than 418,000 people remain displaced within the country. More than 480,000 refugees, a large number of whom are Muslim, have fled to neighbouring countries.

Touadera was elected in a peaceful vote in February, helped by a 12,000-strong UN force. But the country has seen a resurgence of violence since mid-June.

The UN Security Council on July 26 voted to task peacekeepers with supporting Touadera’s government just as France prepares to end its military mission in the country, which involved nearly 2,500 French troops at its peak.

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