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Armed group in C. Africa agrees to remove barricades

More than three-quarters of the territory of Central African Republic is in the hands of militias.  By FLORENT VERGNES (AFP)
More than three-quarters of the territory of Central African Republic is in the hands of militias. By FLORENT VERGNES (AFP)

A movement accused of the massacre of more than 50 villagers in Central African Republic last week has agreed to dismantle roadblocks on its territory, an official statement seen Friday said.

Saidou Aliou, delegate of the armed group 3R on a joint committee following up a peace pact, pledged Thursday that his movement would take down the barriers, according to the statement released by the committee.

The 3R militia has already handed over three members to the authorities, describing them as rogue elements who murdered the civilians, but the government has maintained an ultimatum for the group to surrender other suspects.

On May 21, an armed group attacked several villages in the northwest near the town of Paoua, not far from the border wih Chad, killing at least 50 civilians and wounding many others.

A government source said that when the 3R's three men were questioned in Paoua, they declared they had led a group of 22 men in the raids.

The massacre was the worst single loss of life since the government and 14 armed groups in February signed a peace pact aimed at bringing order to a deeply poor country that plunged into violence after a coup in 2013.

A UN source said that 3R, which takes its name from the "Return, Reclamation and Reconciliation" process after conflicts, called meetings with villagers and then shot them indiscriminately.

The government and the UN stabilisation mission in the CAR, MINUSCA, delivered the ultimatum to 3R a day after the killings.

It gave the group 72 hours to take down its roadblocks and disband as well as surrendering the suspects.

On Wednesday, a lobby group drawn from the political opposition and civil society organisations issued a communique denouncing a lack of "strong action" by the goverenment after the ultimatum expired.

In Thursday's statement, the follow-up committee also announced new structures closely to survey violations of the peace pact and monitor the use of barriers, illegal taxation and the occupation of official buildings by armed groups.

The peace accord negotiated in Sudan's capital Khartoum with groundwork done by the African Union from 2017 is the eighth deal aimed at resolving conflict in the CAR since 2013.

In the patchwork of ethnic and religious communities making up the country, 3R claims to represent the Fulani people, who traditionally include the semi-nomadic herders of west and central Africa.