Central African Republic reaches peace deal with armed groups

CAIRO/BANGUI (Reuters) - The Central African Republic reached a peace deal with 14 armed groups following talks conducted in Khartoum, the United Nations said on Saturday, potentially ushering in a period of stability in the volatile country.

Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since 2013 when mainly Muslim Selaka rebels ousted then president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias. U.N. peacekeepers were deployed in 2014.

“We have finalized a peace agreement in Khartoum, enabling the people of Central African Republic to embark on a path of reconciliation, agreement and development,” the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaїl Chergui, said in a tweet on Saturday.

The terms of the deal were not immediately released.

Conflict in Central African Republic has uprooted more than one million people, the United Nations said, and has until now shown little sign of abating.

The talks, which started on Jan. 24 with support from the United Nations and the African Union, were meant to stem the violence that has spread across the provinces and over which the overstretched armed forces have had little control.

Peace is not certain, despite the deal. Similar agreements in 2014, 2015 and 2017 all broke apart.

Still, a government spokesman said the deal heralded a “new era” for the country, while armed groups also expressed optimism.

Abakar Sabom, a spokesman for the FPRC, one of the main groups, said: “We were able to agree on what is essential for the Central African: peace. We hope this agreement will bring back social cohesion to the country.”

Reporting by Lena Masri in Cairo and Crispin Dembassa-Kette in Bangui; writing by Edward McAllister and Lena Masri; Editing by Janet Lawrence, William Maclean