By Crispin Dembassa-Kette
BANGUI (Reuters) – Central African Republic has included more rebel officials in an expanded cabinet, the president announced on Friday, in a bid to shore up peace efforts after several armed groups said they were not sufficiently represented following a deal last month.
Central African Republic reached an agreement with 14 armed groups in February, aimed at bringing stability to a country rocked by violence since 2013 when mainly Muslim Selaka rebels ousted the then President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militia.
The diamond and gold-producing country has been ravaged by years of conflict that had shown little sign of abating until now.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera announced on Friday a new cabinet list of 39 members, in which all 14 armed groups were represented. Only 10 groups were represented in the previously announced list, which had 34 members.
The peace deal, signed in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, faced its first major setback a month after it was ratified, when several armed groups withdrew representatives from the new cabinet and demanded a more inclusive reshuffle.
The president’s announcement came two days after reconciliation talks arranged by the African Union in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.
The 14 rebel groups had said last week that they had not been sufficiently consulted over the original cabinet list.
In the new line-up, the major Selaka groups FPRC and UPC have three and two representatives, respectively.
“The UPC congratulates itself and congratulates Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada for forming a government that now respects the Khartoum accord. We call on all ministers to get to work without delay to bring peace back to this country,” UPC political coordinator Hassan Bouba told Reuters via telephone.
Christian anti-balaka militia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thousands of people have died because of the unrest and a fifth of the country’s 4.5 million population have fled their homes. The United Nations deployed a peacekeeping mission in 2014.
But prospects for a lasting peace remain uncertain, as agreements in 2014, 2015 and 2017 all broke down.
(Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Edmund Blair)