Central African Republic President Francois Bozize has agreed to talk with Seleka rebel leaders about forming a national unity government. This could end fighting which has left the government with its back to the wall.
Following a meeting with President Bozize in the capital Bangui on Sunday, the chief of the African Union (AU), Thomas Boni Yayi said that the way for a new government had been paved.
The President had agreed not to run for office again in 2016, but would be "ready to go to Libreville this very day if his peers ask him to" for talks with rebels, "which should lead to a national unity government," the AU chairman said.
An alliance of rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR) has fought government troops for three weeks and advanced to positions only 75 kilometers (40 miles) from Bangui. President Francois Bozize had appealed to the international community for help, while several international NGOs have pulled out their staff.
Seleka - which means "alliance" in the country's Sango language – is made up of three armed groups, which have accused Bozize of failing to honor several agreements and peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011, under which rebel fighters who laid down their guns were promised to be paid.
Over the past weeks the rebels had said they would depose Bozize, who has been in power since 2005 and was reelected in 2011, unless he negotiated with them again.
A spokesman for the rebels responded to the latest announcement on Sunday, saying they would consider Bozize's offer and were keen to see what guarantees would be made to them.
"I take note of his proposals. We need to meet to study them," Seleka spokesman Eric Massi told France 24 television, adding that the rebels' aim was not to join the existing government.
The violence over the last three weeks has highlighted the instability of the landlocked former French colony of 4.5 million inhabitants, which is one of the world's least developed countries, despite its rich deposits of uranium, gold and diamonds.
rg/jm (AFP, Reuters)