Rival militant groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) have agreed to a peace deal aimed at ending a conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced nearly a million.
The accord called for the disarmament of the groups and their possible prosecution for war crimes committed during the two-year conflict, according to agencies.
The agreement was signed between 10 militias and the defence ministry in the capital Bangui, on Sunday.
“On the path toward peace, the step made today is a very important one,” Babacar Gaye, a top UN official in the country, is quoted as saying.
“I want to believe that the commitment is sincere and that we will engage in the construction of progressive peace.”
Rwanda currently maintains 750 peacekeeping troops under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and 140 special police forces that contributed tremendously in peace restoration and disarmament of armed groups in the war-torn country.
The Rwanda contingent is among other strategic deployments, charged with the security of interim President Catherine Samba-Panza.
The new deal comes months after Kigali hosted a peace conference on the Central African Republic that drew representatives of faith-based organisations and a host of other civil society organisations along with top clerics from both countries, which called for an end to hostilities to return peace in the country.
At the time, the delegation from CAR was comprised of both Christian and Muslim leaders, a gesture welcomed by participants, considering that the conflict that has devastated the country mainly pits Christian against Muslim militia groups.
UN authorities are quoted saying that all sides had agreed to an accord where they would formally disarm, renounce political violence, and begin a process of disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation.
“The fighters of all the armed groups accept and commit to putting a definitive end to the armed conflicts in Central African Republic,” the agreement reads, according to Reuters.
The Defence and Military Spokesperson, Brig Gen Joseph Nzabamwita, could not be reached by press time to comment on this development.
The deal also included an agreement banning the use of children as soldiers or other workers.
While the accord raised the possibility of amnesty, it reportedly added that amnesty would be denied to those who committed the “crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Central African Republic has seen violent clashes since 2013, when the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the country, prompting retaliation from Christian militias.
A transitional government under President Samba-Panza has been formed with the UN backing, but sporadic violent events still plague the country.
Nearly 900,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the violence began, and over 5,000 have died in the conflict.