Central African Republic catches 100 "fake" rebels
From Reuters by Paul-Marin Ngoupana Wed Mar 11, 2009
DESSIKOU, Central African Republic, March 11 (Reuters) - Some 100 youths were caught posing as rebels in Central African Republic, hoping for cash and other benefits offered to fighters demobilising under a peace process, the government said.
The country, one of the poorest in the world despite its vast natural resources, is trying to implement a shaky peace process after years of civil conflicts and military coups.
"The group of 100 youths told us at the beginning of our discussions that some were from the APRD and some from the UFDR," Communications Minister Cyriaque Gonda told Reuters on Tuesday, referring to two of the country's rebel groups.
"At the end they admitted they had come from Bangui posing as ex-rebels to profit from the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process which will be starting soon," Gonda said at a disarmament camp in Dessikou where the men were caught, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui.
Nineteen-year-old Bonaventure Gomtoua, one of those exposed as a fraud, told Reuters: "We were pushed to do this because in Bangui we are faced with unemployment and poverty."
The peace process between the country's government and a number of rebel groups began last year, but progress has been slow.
One rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Central African People (FDPC) rejected the government's peace deal last month and announced a new rebel alliance, saying the government had broken a number of its promises to the group.
On Tuesday, 350 members of the FDPC protested at Camp Leclerc, a military camp being used for disarmament in Bouar, 375 km (235 miles) northwest of Bangui, over what they said was unfair treatment by the government.
A group of nearly 200 of them threatened to march on Bangui, but agreed to return to Camp Leclerc after authorities agreed to give them 16,000 CFA each ($31) and 5 million CFA francs ($9,750) a month to feed the group, an FDPC official said.
A senior advisor to President Francois Bozize said the peace process was on track.
"For now, the essentials are done. We can be sure that the demobilisation and reintegration campaign will start in two to three months," Dieudonne Stanislas Mbango told Reuters.
Regional instability and wars in neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have worsened internal conflicts in the landlocked former French colony, which has attracted some foreign investment in its rich mineral reserves.
French state-controlled nuclear energy group Areva (CEPFi.PA) is due to start mining uranium in Central African Republic in 2010.
London-listed Gem Diamonds (GEMD.L) has been prospecting for alluvial diamonds in some of the country's rivers, but scaled back its presence this year after disappointing early results. (Writing by Joseph Penney; editing by Alistair Thomson)