CAR + 1 more

CAR-Chad: Presidents reconcile

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BANGUI, 17 February (IRIN) - Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad and Ange-Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic (CAR) vowed on Saturday to reduce bilateral tension and repair their badly battered relations arising from cross-border insecurity.
"May this act be a start for a definitive normalisation of relations between our two states and peoples," Patasse told Deby in a speech broadcast by government-controlled Radio Centrafrique on 15 February. He was referring to Deby's visit that day to the CAR capital, Bangui.

The Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC), to which CAR and Chad belong, sent regional foreign ministers to witness the reconciliation between the two men. CEMAC has 303 peacekeepers in the CAR, whose mandate is to protect Patasse, monitor the securing of the CAR-Chad border, and restructure the CAR army.

Relations between CAR and Chad soured in November 2001 when the CAR army former chief of staff, Francois Bozize, fled to Chad to avoid arrest after accusations of his involvement in a failed coup. Since then, each of the two nations has been accusing the other of supporting dissidents in their cross-border attacks. Until recently, Patasse was still accusing Chad of harbouring ambitions to annex the CAR's oil-rich north, saying that 85 percent of the rebels occupying the north and the centre of the country were Chadians.

"It is no secret that there are Chadians among Bozize's combatants," Deby told reporters on arrival in Bangui. He added that the Chadians with Bozize's fighters were former mercenaries recruited by the Bangui government during the 1996-1997 mutinies. Deby said he had warned his CAR counterpart about the danger the mercenaries posed to national security.

Deby and Patasse have agreed that their joint CAR-Chad commission meet soon to examine issues dividing both countries. These include the return of CAR goods looted and taken to Chad; the reopening and securing of the border; the alleged killing and persecution of Chadians in the CAR; and the need for the free circulation of goods and people between the two countries.

Deby, who recalled that Chad and the CAR were the poorest nations in the subregion, affirmed that the two countries would never fight a war against each other. He said there were more than 500,000 Chadians in the CAR.

[ENDS]

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