Central African Republic Peace Talks May Start Jan. 10

Rebels from the Central African Republic may hold peace talks with the government in nearby Gabon on Jan. 10 after suspending a push toward the capital, Bangui, a spokesman for the Gabon’s foreign affairs ministry said.

The so-called Seleka militia, who say Central African Republic President Francois Bozize has failed to honor the terms of a 2008 peace deal, has been moving toward Bangui since beginning an offensive on Dec. 10.

“The Seleka rebel coalition, which has ceased hostilities and any further advances towards Bangui, is now ready  to join peace talks in Gabon,” Samuel Mve, the foreign ministry spokesman, said in an interview yesterday. The talks will take place in Libreville, the Gabonese capital, he said.

The nation has been dogged by violence since its independence from France in 1960, with at least four battles for Bangui taking place from 1996 to 2003, when Bozize toppled his predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he previously served as army chief.

Gabon sent 120 soldiers to the Central African Republic on Jan. 1 to provide operational support for a peace mission under the mandate of the Economic Community of Central African States. France has also sent 150 troops, adding to the 250 it already had in the country, to support the mission and to protect the 1,200 French citizens in the nation.

Seleka, which means alliance in the Sango language, is a coalition of various armed movements that predominantly originate from the northeast of the country.  

A deterioration of the military situation may “plunge the Central African Republic into a protracted cycle of violence and adversely affect regional security and stability,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairwoman of the African Union Commission, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

The country has a gross domestic product of about $3.6 billion and earns most of its foreign currency from timber and diamond exports, according to the CIA World Factbook.

To contact the reporter on this story: Antoine Lawson in Libreville at ankolo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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