The government of the Central African Republic and 14 rebel groups signed a peace agreement Wednesday (Feb. 6), raising hope for an end to one of Africa’s bloody and complex conflicts.
Religious leaders hope the latest peace deal will bring an end to attacks on churches and mosques.
The majority-Christian country plunged into violence in 2013, when a coalition of Muslim rebels known as Seleka overthrew the government of Francois Bozize, a Christian, and installed Michel Djotodia, who is Muslim, as president.
That triggered the formation of a counter, pro-Christian militia known as anti-Balaka. Djotodia resigned in 2014 under international pressure, but Seleka factions and anti-Balaka militias have continued to engage in revenge attacks.
With the violence killing thousands and displacing an estimated 4.5 million people, the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadera and the rebel factions held the first-ever direct peace talks in Khartoum, Sudan, on Jan. 24.
On Jan. 2, a deal was announced, and it was formally signed in Bangui, the CAR capital, on Wednesday.
“The first effect of this agreement is the cessation of all violence against civilians,” Touadera said after the signing.
But some religious leaders are remaining cautious about the agreement even as analysts say the pact clears the path for peace and reconciliation in the country.
Seven past agreements have disappointed the clerics, including the last, which the Catholic Church helped broker in 2017. It ended in less than a day, with hundreds killed in the fighting.
Still, there is hope for peace.
“I cannot tell anything now, but anything that promises to bring peace for the people is welcome,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia, the vice president of the Central African bishops conference, when asked for a comment.
In CAR, armed militias control 80 percent of the country and frequently fight over mineral resources, which include gold, diamonds and uranium. The former Seleka faction controls the north and east, while the anti-Balaka militias control the south and the west.
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Source: Religion News Service