Over 1 400 CAR rebels lay down arms to restore peace

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More than 1 400 rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR) have laid down their arms in a demobilisation and disarmament process aimed at restoring peace in the resource-rich nation wrecked by years of instability, said authorities.

The plan to gradually disarm a total of about 8,800 rebels operating in six different groups was announced by CAR president Francois Bozize in June, with international backing, Reuters reports.
“For this first phase, we have been able to disarm 1,439 former rebels,” General Sylvestre Yangongo, himself a former rebel who now heads the ministry set up to oversee disarmament, told a ceremony marking the event.

Each former rebel will receive help with re-integration and a one-off 25,000-CFA ($54) payment from the United Nations Development Programme and another 100,000 CFA Francs from government, Yangongo said.
“Experts from the national army will come back later to identify those among the disarmed former rebels who are able to be incorporated into the regular army. The rest will return to civilian life in trade, agriculture and other activity of their choice,” he said.

The vast, sparsely populated Central African state of about 4.5 million people is endowed with untapped gold, uranium and diamond resources but has been largely avoided by investors through various dictatorships and bouts of instability.

In recent years it has suffered from a mix of local rebels, bandits and the spillover of conflicts from neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

In June, the country’s last rebel group signed a ceasefire with the government in the latest bid to restore security.