World Bulletin / News Desk
Joesph Ousmane Zoundeko, the new chief-of-staff of the largely Muslim seleka rebel group, has signed a pact with French peacekeepers with a view to averting clashes with the Christian anti-balaka militia.
Dubbed "Confidence Measures," the new deal will go into effect starting from Wednesday in Bambari, 350km northeast of Bangui, the capital of the troubled Central African Republic (CAR).
"We have reached an agreement to apply confidence measures in ways that suit the situation in Bambari," Zoundeko told Anadolu Agency late Tuesday.
"We, however, want to reserve the right to defend ourselves without returning to the French peacekeepers in case of an anti-balaka attack," he added.
A military source told AA that the confidence measures had been approved on December 10, 2013, adding that the measures called for all armed groups in CAR to suspend their activities.
A French diplomatic source, meanwhile, told AA on Tuesday that a commission – including French Ambassador in Bangui Charles Malinas, French peacekeeping force commander Gen. Soriano, two ministers from CAR's transitional government and representatives of the U.N. and the African Union – would visit Bambari later on Wednesday in hopes of easing tensions between the seleka and the anti-balaka.
Zoundeko distanced himself from earlier statements by seleka spokesperson Ahmat Nijad Ibrahim in which he had said the militia would launch an attack on the anti-balaka in order to stop a march by the latter toward Bambari.
"We are putting hierarchy inside the militia to order," Zoundeko said. "Some officers still act unilaterally as they did in the past."
Zoundeko said there were differences of opinion between seleka members who wanted to attack the anti-balaka and the militia's leadership, which wants to reassure the international community in order to obtain its support in any future negotiating process.
Established in August 2012, the seleka group was drawn from rebel forces opposed to then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian.
The group managed to remove Bozize from office and install Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, in power one year later. The latter, however, under international pressure, resigned earlier this year, to be succeeded by Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian.
But anti-Muslim violence has escalated since January, when Samba-Panza assumed office.
Since last December, thousands, mostly Muslims, have been killed in a spate of sectarian bloodletting throughout the country.
The violence has been blamed on the Christian anti-balaka militia, which accuses Muslims of supporting former seleka rebels blamed for attacking Christian homes, looting property and carrying out summary executions.
According to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 173,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence, while another 37,000 have fled the county.Last Mod: 22 Mayıs 2014, 10:54