The interim president of the violence-wracked Central African Republic has declared that “the party is over” after weeks of deadly sectarian violence, as deserting troops and police returned to duty.
The chaos is over, the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over.
Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, speaker of the country’s provisional parliament and interim president, pledged on Monday that the “anarchy” that had gripped the country would be swiftly brought to an end.
He also issued a stern warning to warring fighters from the mostly Muslim Seleka group and the anti-balaka Christian fighters set up to oppose them.
Speaking at a police headquarters in the capital Bangui, he said: “To the ex-Seleka, to the anti-balaka and the lovers of looting, I’m giving you a severe warning: The party is over.”
Nguendet, whose parliament has been charged with finding a new transitional president within two weeks, declared: “The chaos is over, the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over.”
The return of soldiers and police to duty was another encouraging sign for the Central African Republic after weeks of horrific sectarian violence including reports of cannibalism.
Sunday night was “particularly calm” with no reports of looting, according to residents contacted by AFP news agency.
The troops, many of whom had fled their units for fear of being killed, heeded a call from chief of staff General Ferdinand Bomboyeke to return to barracks by Monday.
“They came in very large numbers and they’re still coming,” Colonel Desire Bakossa, who supervised the registration, told AFP.
“They answered the general’s call. It’s a relief. It’s a very good sign.”
Similar centres have opened in Bangui for police to register after many of them deserted too.
Nguendet said the police, completely absent from the streets of Bangui in recent weeks, would be “redeployed within 72 hours and would take part in the disarmament process” under way in the city.
“I’m very happy to see again my brothers in arms,” said adjutant Jacky-Morel Gbabja, who fled his unit in December to take shelter with his family.
Nguendet’s speech came the day after scenes of reconciliation in the southern Bangui neighbourhood of Bimbo as rival fighters struck a truce and embraced.
The interim president also went to the airport where about 100,000 people were sheltering to urge them to return home.
Ten months of violence have displaced a fifth of the country’s population, and the sectarian flare-up has killed more than 1,000 people in the past month alone, despite a French military intervention and the presence of an African peacekeeping force, MISCA.
France has deployed 1,600 troops in the country to support MISCA, which is meant to have up to 6,000 troops but has not yet reached 3,500.