World Bulletin / News Desk
South African President Jacob Zuma and his visiting Central African Republic counterpart Festus Touadera have agreed to strengthen bilateral relations.
The two leaders met in the capital Pretoria Wednesday.
Both sides reaffirmed the urgent need for armed groups fighting in the Central Africa Republic to lay down their arms and take part in reforms, including disarmament and reintegration.
“The two presidents agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation within the ambit of the founding framework co-operation agreement signed by both countries in 2006,” a joint communique issued by Zuma’s office said.
The two countries also vowed to enhance cooperation in political, economic and social fields for the mutual benefit of their people.
“They will also collaborate in security, scientific and technical fields,” the communique added.
Zuma also praised his counterpart’s efforts to engage with armed groups in his country aimed at peace and reconciliation.
The Central Africa Republic is a mineral-rich landlocked country that descended into anarchy in 2013, when ex-Seleka rebels said to be mostly Muslims overthrew the Christian President, Francois Bozize, who had seized power in a 2003 coup.
Ex-Seleka leader, Micheal Djotidia, was then installed, becoming the country’s first Muslim president since independence from France in 1960.
However, his reign was short-lived after regional leaders forced him to step down. His exit in 2014 led to increased attacks on Muslims in the country, forcing thousands to flee to neighboring Chad and Cameron.
Muslims were accused of supporting the ex-Seleka government, making them targets of the pro-Christian militia group, Anti-Balaka.
Experts say although militant groups still operate in some parts of the country, the situation has improved since Touadera, a former math’s professor, was elected as president in February last year.
Touadera, who formerly served as prime minister under President Bozize, is seen as a unifying figure in the Central Africa Republic.