CAR rebels pull out of peace process

2012-01-13 11:08
Bangui - The main former rebel group in the Central African Republic said on Thursday it was pulling out of a peace process because of the arrest of its chief, Jean-Jacques Demafouth.

The People's Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) accused the government of President Francois Bozize of "violating the peace accords" in a statement signed by Henri Tchebo Wanfio, the rebel military leader.

Demafouth, a former defence minister and a lawyer by profession, has been detained since Friday by the paramilitary police.

Justice Minister Firmin Findiro on Sunday accused Demafouth of a bid "to destabilise the country by way of resuming rebel activities, which he hopes to lead in a coalition force".

Demafouth said he was accused of wanting to take control of three other rebel forces: the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the Union of Democratic Forces for Action, and the Movement of Centrafrican Liberators for Justice.

"But I have nothing to do with all that," Demafouth told AFP by telephone after his arrest.

The APRD, which signed peace accords with the authorities in 2008, charged that the government was violating the agreements.

"This leads us to decide no longer to continue in the process of disarmament, demobilisation and social reinsertion (DDR)," it said, adding that it was "provisionally withdrawing" from the process until Demafouth is freed.

Violation of procedure

Demafouth agreed to take the leadership of the APRD in 2008 and bring the rebels into a process that led to the signing of the peace accords among most rebel groups and Bozize's regime.

The CPJP also said in a statement it was seeking the release of the APRD leader, adding that it "did not see itself in any coalition to destabilise the country with Mr Demafouth".

On Wednesday, Demafouth's lawyer Mathias-Barthelemy Morouba said he had not been able to see his client and denounced a police search that day at the ex-rebel leader's home in the absence of the accused and his lawyer.

"This is a serious violation of procedure," he said, complaining that the actions against Demafouth were happening in a "shady fashion".

The APRD insisted that Demafouth, who is vice-president of the steering committee for the DDR process, had invested a great deal to see the programme advance in the landlocked and deeply impoverished country.

"If the Central African authorities do not take account of this personal investment and show no recognition in this respect, the APRD considers that unacceptable," it added.

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