By Sebastien Lamba
BANGUI – Rival armed groups in Central African Republic agreed on Sunday to a peace accord requiring them to disarm and potentially face justice for war crimes committed during two years of conflict.
The agreement signed between 10 armed groups and the Defence Ministry during a peace forum in the capital, Bangui, aims to draw a line under a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced nearly a million people in the impoverished former French colon.
“On the path towards peace, the step made today is a very important one,” said Babacar Gaye, the top U.N. official in the country.
Violence flared up in March 2013 when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking reprisals from anti-balaka, or anti-machete, Christian militia, who then drove the bulk of the Muslim population out of the south.
“The fighters of all the armed groups accept and commit to putting a definitive end to the armed conflicts in Central African Republic,” the agreement said.
“They are committed to disposing their arms and renouncing armed fighting as a means of making political claims and to enter into the process of Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reinsertion and Repatriation (DDRR),” it added.
The process, which envisages some members of armed factions being absorbed into the army, will be supported by a 10,000- strong U.N. peacekeeping mission.