April 14, 2015 / 8:24 PM / in 3 years

Former Central African presidents sign peace deal in Kenya

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Former Central African Republic Presidents Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia signed a peace agreement in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday, despite their country’s transitional government and foreign partners dismissing the process.

The signing, witnessed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, endorsed a deal signed in Nairobi last week by the mainly Muslim former Seleka rebels and the largely Christian or animist “anti-balaka” militia, according to a statement.

Kenyatta said the agreements laid the foundation for lasting peace in Central African Republic, but the initiative has been dismissed by the country’s interim president Catherine Samba-Panza who is seeking to organize her own peace forum in Bangui this month.

Diplomats, led by former colonial power France, are also uneasy about what they see as a parallel process being hosted by Kenya.

Kenyatta said he had been asked by Congo Republic President Denis President Sassou Nguesso - the regional mediator in the conflict - to facilitate a deal on the cessation of hostilities.

“The African of today understands that instability in your neighbor’s country is instability in your country,” Kenyatta said.

He called on the international community to support the peace process. “It does not matter how we got them to the table, what matters is that they are at the table discussing peace.”

One person died and a dozen people were wounded when hundreds of protesters clashed with U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic last week, highlighting how violence simmers despite the deal and the deployment of thousands of U.N. troops.

There is wrangling in Bangui over what form the locally organized peace forum will take.

Political parties object to Bozize and Djotodia taking part and say it must bring an end to impunity in a nation that has seen little but conflict and political instability since independence in 1960.

Reporting by Edmund Blair; Additional reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette in Bangui; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by David Lewis and Alison Williams

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