Rival militiamen agree truce after days of fighting in Central African Republic's capital Bangui

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 January, 2014, 1:17am


Rival militiamen ended days of fighting in one neighbourhood of the Central African Republic's capital Bangui and hugged each other as bystanders cheered, witnesses said.

CAR chief of staff General Ferdinand Bomboyeke said the goodwill gestures occurred after a deal was agreed by rivals fighting in a southern part of Bangui called Bimbo.

The fighting involved men belonging to the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militiamen.

The ex-Seleka rebels took Michel Djotodia to power in March, but he resigned under international pressure on Friday.

The truce came after members of the French force in Bangui came to carry out a mediation effort, Roger Kombo, a CAR official said.

The fighters "hugged each other. They asked for forgiveness as people cheered," Kombo said. The fighters from both sides then went together to the neighbourhood market and re-opened the checkpoint, allowing people in the neighbourhood to travel about freely again, he said.

The neighbourhood commander of Seleka fighters, Captain Souleimane Daouda, said that they "reached a ceasefire" with the anti-balaka militiamen in the area.

"There were negotiations all night. Early this morning we met. We told each other that we had no reason to fight since Djotodia is gone. We await instructions from the future authorities."

Deadly violence including reports of cannibalism and widespread looting had erupted in Bangui after the resignation of Djotodia, who fled to Benin on Saturday.

In the hours after his resignation at least five people were killed in a night punctuated by gunfire. Looting erupted throughout the city with crowds breaking in to shops, many of them belonging to Muslims, reflecting the sectarian nature of the strife that has gripped the country.

Some of the thieves allegedly committed acts of cannibalism, witnesses said.

One resident of the capital, still in shock, related an incident on Tuesday when a Muslim man was attacked by a group who cut him up with a machete.

"One individual took hold of an arm and bought some bread and starting chewing on the flesh, along with his bread," Jean-Sylvestre Tchya, said. "The scene made many people vomit and some cried out in horror."

Another witness said he saw a man pick up the head and wrap it up, saying he would "feast on it" later.

Almost 10 months of violence have displaced 20 per cent of the country's population, and the sectarian flare-up has killed more than 1,000 people in the past month alone, despite French military intervention and an African peacekeeping force.