* Anti-Seleka militia demanding amnesty, role in government
* Interim leader considering all options to restore peace
(Adds three ministers fired)
By Paul-Marin Ngoupana and Bate Felix
BANGUI, Dec 15 Central African Republic's
interim leader is weighing a possible amnesty for militias
involved in Christian-Muslim violence that has killed hundreds
of people, most of them civilians, in exchange for their
The majority-Christian country has been paralysed by cycles
of killing, torture and looting since Michel Djotodia's mainly
Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March.
Djotodia has since lost control of his former fighters,
whose abuses have led to the emergence of militias, known as the
anti-balaka, meaning anti-machete in the local Sango language,
In a sign of continued instability within the transitional
administration, Djotodia dismissed three members government on
Sunday, including Security Minister Josue Binoua whose home was
raided by police during the violence last week.
More than 1,600 French troops deployed this month to try to
stop the violence that has displaced more than 680,000 people -
nearly one-seventh of the country's inhabitants - according to
the United Nations.
The former rebel leader said in a state radio address late
on Saturday that he had been contacted by a representative of
the mainly Christian and animist anti-balaka, who were demanding
inclusion in the transitional government he leads.
Elections are due to take place in 2015, however the
government in Bangui exerts little control even within the
"The anti-balaka sent us an emissary and said they want to
lay down their weapons and leave the bush, but they fear for
their security. They gave preconditions ... They asked for an
amnesty and entrance into government," Djotodia said.
"Contacts are already established and we will pursue these
exchanges in the interest of peace for all Central Africans," he
added. "We don't see the harm, because this is the price of
The anti-balaka, along with gunmen loyal to ousted President
Francois Bozize, attacked Bangui last week, triggering more
killings and reprisals that have deepened inter-religious
conflict. More than 500 people were killed and 189,000 have been
displaced in the capital alone.
A government spokesman said that Djotodia was not ruling out
any of the demands made by the anti-balaka and was planning to
reach out to other groups for similar talks - which might also
mean the Seleka rebels.
"The president will consider anything that will lead to
peace in Central African Republic," Guy-Simplice Kodegue said.
In a handwritten press statement seen by Reuters on Sunday,
an anti-balaka group calling itself the Youth of the Anti-Balaka
Revolution called upon its members to observe an immediate
ceasefire to give peace talks a chance.
It was unclear how many fighters the group represented.
Rights groups expressed scepticism over whether an agreement
with the loosely affiliated militias could bring peace.
"I think the question is whether there is enough structure
among the anti-balaka to deliver on promises to lay down arms"
said Peter Bouckaert, emergency director at New York-based Human
Central African Republic is rich in diamonds, gold and
uranium, but it has seen little stability and, since
independence in 1960, France has intervened there more than in
any other former colony.
The firing of the three ministers on Sunday risks worsening
tensions because it was not carried out under the terms of an
accord that led to the formation of the transitional government.
Government spokesman Kodegue said a number of crates of
weapons of all calibres and some military material were found at
the security minister's house.
"Minister Binoua always claimed not to have weapons for the
gendarmes and police. Where did these arms crates come from?"
Binoua could not immediately be reached for comment.
Finance Minister Christophe Mbremaidou, who Kodegue said had
been unreachable during the crisis, was also sacked, along with
Rural Development Minister Joseph Bedounga, who was accused of
criticising the government during the violence.
A senior government official, however, told Reuters that
Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye had not signed off on the
dismissals as required under the terms of the country's
"He was not even consulted and only heard about it like
everyone else over the radio," the official said, calling
Djotodia's changes to the cabinet "null and void".
(Additional reporting by Nicholas Vinocur in Paris; Writing by
Joe Bavier; Editing by Alison Williams and Mohammad Zargham)