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Central Africa rebel leader calls on men to disarm


Feb 3, 2007 (BANGUI) — A rebel leader in Central African Republic called on his fighters on Saturday to lay down their weapons after he signed a peace deal with President Francois Bozize.

Abdoulaye Miskine, leader of the People’s Democratic Front which is one of two rebel groups to have signed the accord with Bozize in Libya on Friday, told Reuters those who disregarded his order would be punished.

"I appeal to all my men in the bush, those in Democratic Republic of Congo, in Sudan, Chad and Cameroon, to lay down their weapons and join me," Miskine said in an interview in Bangui after arriving back from Libya.

"Those who do not respect my appeal will suffer grave consequences," he said.

Central African Republic has long been racked by revolts and mutinies and now has to deal with rebels and armed raiders spilling over from Chad and Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region, both of which it borders.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been driven from their homes in fighting between the army and ill-defined rebel groups and bandits who loot and burn villages in what aid workers have called one of Africa’s forgotten humanitarian crises.

Late last year, French Mirage fighters, helicopter gunships and special forces helped Central African Republic’s army to recapture a string of northeastern towns seized by rebels whom Bangui said were backed by Sudan. Khartoum denied this.

U.N. security experts are currently in the region evaluating an appeal from Bozize for U.N. peacekeepers to protect its borders and help prevent the Darfur conflict spreading.

Some U.N. officials have expressed reservations about deploying troops before political solutions to Central African Republic’s own domestic instability could be found.

Under Friday’s deal, brokered by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in his hometown of Sirte, the government and the two rebel factions agreed to stop hostilities and allow the rebels to integrate the ranks of government security and military forces or public service administration.

"(Miskine) can return in complete tranquillity to take part in the effort to rebuild the country. The only advice I can give him is to work. To work purely for harmony and peace," Bozize said after the signing ceremony.

Miskine and Ringui Le Gaillard, the other rebel leader who signed the agreement, are viewed as associates of exiled former President Angel Felix Patasse, who after his 2003 overthrow by Bozize has been accused of trying to foment rebellion.

Patasse, who has lived in Togo since being ousted, said on Thursday he wanted to hold negotiations in person with Bozize to start a process of national reconciliation. The authorities in Bangui have not publicly responded to his call.


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