The Central African Republic (CAR) and the Seleka rebels have agreed to form a national unity government under a peace deal that will end nearly a month of fighting in the country. CAR President Francois Bozize and representatives of the rebels signed the agreement in the Gabonese capital city of Libreville on Friday after three days of negotiations brokered by regional neighbors.
The ceasefire accord allows Bozize to stay in office until his term ends in 2016. However, he would not be eligible to run in the country’s next presidential election.Under the deal, the CAR president will dissolve the current government so that a transitional unity government can be formed. The contract also calls for a prime minister chosen by the country’s political opposition to lead the transitional government until parliamentary elections are held within 12 months to replace the national assembly. “For me, it's a victory for peace because from now on Central Africans in conflict zones will be finally freed from their suffering,” said Bozize upon arriving in Bangui after the peace talks ended in Gabon. "I will finish my term, which ends in 2016," he added. Eric Massi, Seleka rebel spokesman, also said the deal was to the benefit of the CAR citizens. However, he warned that fighting could break out again if Bozize failed to fulfill the rebel group’s demands listed in the contract. Massi further called for the withdrawal of foreign troops deployed to reinforce the African country's army. "We will judge Mr. Bozize's sincerity in the coming days," he said. The Seleka rebels launched an offensive against the CAR government in December. The rebels, who managed to advance toward the capital Bangui, said Bozize must step down and face trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing war crimes. Chadian President Idriss Deby, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the ceasefire agreement marked a good compromise. "We have not undermined the integrity of the constitution of Central African Republic. President Bozize was elected for a five-year term and he should carry on until that is finished.” MKA/HGH