President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic has launched an operation to disarm hundreds of rebels at Bocaranga in the northwest, the president’s office announced on Monday.
The operation involves about 350 former fighters of the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), with funding from the government, which has come up with 100 000 CFA francs (about R1 450) for each rebel, said the head of the presidential press service, Lord-Esaie Nganamokoi.
“At last the disarmament is beginning in the Central African Republic,” Bozize said on Saturday as the operation began, according to Nganamokoi, who read out remarks by the leader of the highly unstable and poor landlocked nation.
“My desire is to move forwards quickly to peace and to respect our commitments,” Bozize said, adding that he had instructed the government “not to abuse the confidence of the former fighters”.
Before the disarmament operation began, the commander of the APRD, Henri Tchebo Wanfio, urged the government “to respect its commitments to make the peace process succeed”, Nganamokoi said.
Disarmament Minister Xavier-Sylvestre Yangongo, a general, stated that “the stage of the disarmament of ex-combatants is beginning, after the recent census conducted by the leaders of politico-military movements and observers from the Economic Community of Central African States”.
Yangongo said that disarmament was the next step after peace accords signed between the Bangui government and four rebel movements in 2008, which will eventually lead to the reintegration into society of about 6 000 former fighters.
Disarmament operations will later be extended to other regions of the country, where former rebel movements have agreed to lay down their arms.
On June 12, the last major rebel movement active in the Central African Republic, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) signed a ceasefire with the government that is set to lead to a peace accord. — AFP