"Yesterday I met the magistrates, to whom I put the question of amnesty. For the judiciary, the provisions of the constitution should never be questioned. There will be no impunity," he said in a speech aired on Friday on state-owned Radio Centrafrique.
A general amnesty for the May 2001 plotters (led by former President André Kolingba), and supporters of Gen Francois Bozize (the former army chief of staff), who have been rebelling since November 2001, is one of the preconditions set out by both the internal opposition and those in exile for a national dialogue. Others include the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country, the holding of the dialogue outside the CAR, the signing of a ceasefire, and the appointment of an international mediator.
In his address, Patasse said that the dialogue would lead to recommendations being made, but these would not be binding.
Analysts say that under these conditions, the dialogue will not reach its goal of reconciling the CAR people, as those who have been sentenced in absentia will be excluded, and its conclusions will not be automatically implemented.
In a conflicting message, the Coordinator of the National Dialogue, Paulin Pomodimo, told IRIN that those tried in absentia had been invited to the dialogue. A total of 600 people, including Kolingba, were sentenced in absentia in August 2002 in connection with the abortive 28 May 2001 coup attempt.
Patasse, who has repeatedly accused Chad of supporting rebel elements within the CAR, also demanded a census of all Chadians who recently entered the country. "We want to know among the Chadians those who are our brothers and those who are soldiers sent by President [Idriss] Deby," he said.
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