Central African Republic signs peace deal with rebels

Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:56pm EST
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By Jean Rovys Dabany

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Central African Republic's government and rebels agreed to the formation of a national unity government under a ceasefire deal on Friday to end an insurgency that swept to within striking distance of the capital.

The agreement, signed in Gabon's coastal capital after three days of negotiations mediated by regional neighbours, eases the biggest threat yet to President Francois Bozize's decade in charge of the minerals-rich former French colony.

"This is a good deal to bring peace," rebel spokesman Eric Massi told Reuters by telephone. "But the ceasefire is contingent on several of our demands being met and we will judge Mr. Bozize's sincerity in the coming days."

Massi said that among the Seleka rebel coalition's demands was the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of most of the foreign forces deployed to reinforce the country's military.

The deal also calls for the new transitional government to have a prime minister drawn from the opposition and for a parliamentary election to be held within 12 months.

Seleka launched its insurgency in early December, accusing Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace deal supposed to provide jobs and money to insurgents who laid down their weapons.

The rebels had previously insisted that Bozize's resignation was a precondition for peace and that the president, who seized power in a Chadian-backed 2003 coup, should stand trial at the International Criminal Court.

Chad President Idriss Deby, who attended the signing ceremony, said the deal would allow Bozize to complete his mandate, which expires in 2016.   Continued...

Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia (L), leader of Central African Republic's (CAR) Seleka rebel alliance, shakes hands with CAR's President Francois Bozize (R) during peace talks with delegations representing the government and the opposition rebels in Libreville January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Levis Boussougou (GABON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)