INSIGHT-Gold, diamonds feed C. African religious violence

Tue Jul 29, 2014 4:00am EDT
 
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* Ceasefire deal last week raised hopes for peace

* Sectarian violence has driven more than 1 million from their homes

* Profiteering warlords will resist efforts at disarmament

* Any peace process will need to provide economic alternatives

By Daniel Flynn

NDASSIMA, Central African Republic, July 29 (Reuters) - T hree young rebels, their AK47s propped against wooden stools in the afternoon heat, guard the entrance to the giant Ndassima goldmine carved deep into a forested hilltop in Central African Republic.

Sat in a thatched shack at the edge of a muddy shantytown, the gunmen keep the peace - for a price - among hundreds of illegal miners who swarm over the steep sides of the glittering open pit, scratching out a living.

The mine, owned by Canada's Axmin, was overrun by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels more than year ago. It now forms part of an illicit economy driving sectarian conflict in one of Africa's most unstable countries, despite the presence of thousands of French and African peacekeepers.

Seleka fighters - many from neighbouring Chad and Sudan - swept south to topple President Francois Bozize in March last year. Months of killing and looting provoked vicious reprisals by Christian militia, known as "anti-balaka", that pushed the rebels back, splitting the landlocked country of 4.5 million people into a Muslim north and the Christian south.   Continued...