March 5, 2019 / 5:31 PM / in 3 months

Central African Republic peace deal faces setback

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic’s month-old peace deal with armed groups is facing its first major challenge this week, after several signatories said a newly-formed government was not sufficiently representative.

The new cabinet, announced on Sunday, was meant to usher in a period of stability and political cooperation in the volatile country, after a peace agreement was reached with 14 armed groups in February.

But four of the rebel groups have since withdrawn their representatives from government or demanded a reshuffle, including FPRC, one of the main participants.

On Monday, another rebel group MLCJ demanded the prime minister reorganise cabinet within 72 hours.

“We have noted certain changes of mood among some of our brothers,” Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada said on television in response to the criticism, urging all sides to keep the peace.

“The government is prepared to discuss with representatives of former armed groups the possibility of broadening the basis of their participation in the management of public affairs.”

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 militia.

Thousands of people have died because of the unrest in the diamond and gold-producing country, and a fifth of the 4.5 million population have fled their homes.

The government and rebels expressed optimism when the peace deal was signed on Feb. 5. But lasting stability is not guaranteed: similar agreements in 2014, 2015 and 2017 all broke down.

Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Additional reporting by Sofia Christensen; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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