The Central African Republic’s government and rebels signed a peace agreement to set up a national unity government, ending a month-long crisis, according to a statement read to reporters.
Under the deal signed today, a prime minister will be appointed from the opposition, President Francois Bozize will remain in office and a parliamentary election will be formed after 12 months. The agreement was reached during peace talks held in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, where regional leaders met to negotiate an end to the rebellion by the Seleka rebel alliance.
Seleka insurgents advanced on Jan. 7 to within 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of Damara, the last major town on the road to Bangui, the capital. Troops from neighboring Congo Republic, Chad, France and Gabon have been deployed in the country, which is about the size of Texas. South Africa also sent soldiers.
Seleka pledged “to withdraw from occupied cities and abandon the armed struggle” and foreign troops will also leave, according to the peace deal. Rebels arrested during the crisis will be released, it said, and Bozize won’t be able to remove the prime minister during the transition period.
The Central African Republic has been plagued 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 served as army chief.
The rebellion prompted Axmin Inc., a Canadian gold explorer, to delay plans to open a mine in the country by at least a year, the company’s chief executive officer, George Roach, said Jan. 7. Axmin has invested C$95 million ($96 million) in the gold project, which began development in the late 1990s, he said.
Progress in securing financing for the Passendro Gold project near Bambari, about 280 kilometers northeast of Bangui, stalled after the insurgents overran the site last month, Roach said.
Gabon and Congo Republic each sent 120 soldiers to the Central African Republic to provide operational support for a peace mission under the mandate of Eccas. France has also sent 150 troops, adding to the 250 it already has in the country to support the mission and protect the 1,200 French citizens living there. Chad also sent 320 troops.
South African President Jacob Zuma approved the dispatch of 400 troops, the presidency said on Jan. 6.
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.