BANGUI, Central African Republic — The Central African Republic’s Seleka rebel movement is ready sign a cease-fire with President Francois Bozize’s government, suspending its advance toward the capital, Bangui, a rebel spokesman said.
“We accept the principle of a week-long cease-fire,” Etienne Moufoudzou, a spokesman for Seleka, said today in an interview in Libreville, the Gabonese capital. “The rebels may apply for the post of prime minister in the next government.”
Seleka, which is an alliance of insurgent groups, has demanded the suspension of the constitution and the formation of a new government, with a transitional period leading to a presidential election, the chairman of the rebel delegation, Jean-Jacques Demafouth, said in an separate interview.
Peace talks entered a third day in Libreville, where regional leaders gathered to seek an end to the month-long rebel offensive. The two sides are still far from reaching a comprehensive agreement, Demafouth said.
The insurgents have called for Bozize, 66, to step down because they said he failed to honor the terms of a 2008 peace deal and was responsible for war crimes.
“The rebels denounce the chronic inability of the Bozize system to ensure without discrimination the security of all citizens,” Demafouth said.
Seleka advanced on Jan. 7 to within 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of Damara, the last major town on the road to Bangui.
Troops from neighboring Congo Republic, France, and Gabon have been deployed in the country, which is about the size of Texas. South Africa also agreed to send troops.
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.
Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso was appointed mediator in the crisis last month by the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States, or Eccas.
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.
South African President Jacob Zuma approved the dispatch of 400 troops, the presidency said on Jan. 6.
Uganda said it’s willing to contribute troops to halt fighting in Central African Republic, where it already has an unspecified number of soldiers hunting insurgents from Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army insurgents.
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.
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