Sudanese woman in apostasy case arrives in Italy; audience with pope

Mail and Guardian

Meriam Ibrahim, whose death sentence was overturned after international outcry, has arrived with her husband and two children in Italy.

Meriam Ibrahim and her family have successfully arrived in Italy in their second attempt to leave Sudan. (AFP)

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian Sudanese woman spared a death sentence for apostasy after an international outcry, has arrived in Italy.

Italian television showed the 27-year-old leaving an aircraft at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her husband, two children and Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli.

Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to death for apostasy in May, sparking an international campaign to lift the death sentence. More than a million people backed an Amnesty International campaign to get her released, with British prime minister David Cameron and US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson among world leaders who clamoured for her release.

While on death row, Ibrahim, a graduate of Sudan University’s school of medicine, gave birth in shackles in May. It was a difficult birth as her legs were in chains and Ibrahim is worried that her daughter may need support to walk.

Because of the baby, Ibrahim was told that her death sentence would be deferred for two years to allow her to nurse.

International outrage
Under the Sudanese penal code, Muslims are forbidden from changing faith, and Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men.

During her trial in Khartoum, she told the court that she had been brought up as a Christian, and refused to renounce her faith. She and Daniel Wani – an American citizen – married in 2011. The court ruled that the union was invalid and that Ibrahim was guilty of adultery.

Her convictions, sentences and detention in Omdurman women’s prison while heavily pregnant and with her toddler son incarcerated alongside her caused international outrage.

After an appeal court overturned the death sentence, Ibrahim, Wani, and their two children tried to leave the country in June, but were turned back. The Sudanese government accused her of trying to leave the country with false papers, preventing her departure for the US.

Her lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said he had not been told of her departure on Thursday.

“I don’t know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Meriam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” Mostafa told Reuters.

Ibrahim and her family had been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

BBC

Sudan ‘apostasy’ woman Meriam Yahia Ibrahim meets Pope

A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has met the Pope.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.

Welcoming her at the airport, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: “Today is a day of celebration.”

Meriam Ibrahim looked relieved as she arrived at Rome airport

Mrs Ibrahim met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican soon after her arrival.

“The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.

The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show “closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith,” he added.

‘Mission accomplished’

The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy’s involvement in the case.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.

Daniel Wani in Rome airport Mrs Ibrahim travelled with her husband Daniel Wani

“But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave. Just two days ago a group called Hamza made a statement that they would kill her and everyone who helps her,” he added.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.

Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy – renouncing one’s faith.

Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June.

In June, Meriam spoke to the BBC as she entered the US embassy, as Reeta Chakrabarti reports

She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.

These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum.

Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.  bbc

DR Congo and Rwanda – will Hutu FDLR give up or fight on ?

ISS

Surrender or tactical deceit – has the FDLR really given up the fight?
24 July 2014

Is the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), which famously routed the M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last year, now snatching defeat from the jaws of a complete victory against all disruptive forces in the region?

This is what many analysts fear after a controversial decision by regional leaders in Luanda earlier this month to give the other most troublesome armed group in the region, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), six months’ grace to surrender and disarm.

The FDLR, in one or other guise, has been at the very heart of the instability and conflict in the eastern DRC for 20 years. It was originally established by members of the Interahamwe – an ethnic militia composed of Hutus, Rwanda’s ethnic majority – who fled their homeland in 1994 after participating in the genocide against the minority Tutsis.

The FDLR’s presence in eastern DRC has been a two-fold agent of instability and conflict. It has itself preyed on the local population like so many other armed groups and warlords, and it has developed entrenched economic interests in the area. But its presence in eastern DRC has been even more destructive in terms of regional stability, because it has been the reason – or perhaps pretext – for Rwanda to intervene militarily in the area several times, supposedly to safeguard its own security against a group dedicated to the overthrow of President Paul Kagame’s government.

Kagame lost the argument as the FDLR were given a further six months to disarm 

The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), a 3 000-strong South African, Tanzanian and Malawian force, was set up under the wider United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, but with a more robust mandate to go after the armed groups terrorising the eastern DRC.

Late last year it helped the DRC army (the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, or FARDC) to defeat the feared ethnic Tutsi-led M23 rebels, whom the UN had accused Rwanda of supporting. Then, earlier this year, the FIB and FARDC also defeated the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group, dislodging it from its redoubts in the eastern DRC.

The next armed group in the cross hairs was the FDLR. But then in April, FDLR interim president, Victor Byiringiro, wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, DRC President Joseph Kabila and other regional leaders announcing that the FDLR had decided to lay down its weapons and henceforth fight Kagame’s government politically instead.

A deadline of 31 May was set for the voluntary surrender of the FDLR. But only approximately 200 of its estimated strength of 1 500 to 2 000 surrendered during May and June and handed in their weapons. Rwanda is convinced the surrender was a ruse intended to buy time for the FDLR to regroup and reinforce itself for battle with the FIB and FARDC later, when it feels stronger.

At a joint ministerial meeting in Luanda on 2 July of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Kagame lost the argument as a decision was taken to give the FDLR a further six months to surrender and disarm – with an interim progress check after three months – or face ‘military consequences.’

Stephanie Wolters, head of the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis division at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, shares some of Rwanda’s scepticism about the sincerity of the FDLR’s surrender. One of the reasons for her doubts is the UN Expert Group’s June report, which said the FDLR was still recruiting and training combatants.

She finds it inexplicable that the Luanda meeting apparently ignored the UN group’s findings and effectively took the FDLR at its word. Official sources say that South Africa was one of those pushing hardest for the FDLR to be given six months’ grace. One source said that South Africa, as one of the nations that would be on the frontline if fighting broke out with the FDLR, argued that it was entitled to demand that peace first be given a chance.

South African officials also say the FDLR did not surrender ‘out of goodwill,’ but was forced to do so because it saw what had happened to the M23 and feared suffering the same fate. However, this logic does not exclude the possibility that the FDLR might indeed have balked at engaging the FIB and FARDC now – but chose to ‘surrender’ so it could fight another day.

South African officials acknowledge that the demobilisation and disarming of the FDLR is a ‘work in progress,’ much complicated by the fact that demobilised soldiers would mostly have to return to Rwanda, where they fear what awaits them.

The FDLR has been weakened but still remains a formidable force

All of this, though, has left Rwanda feeling suspicious and resentful – not a happy mood for anyone in the region. Under the framework for peace agreement signed by the international community, regional countries and the DRC in February 2013, the FDLR was clearly identified as one of the ‘negative forces’ that would have to be eliminated.

There was general agreement that the FARDC and the FIB would go after the M23 first, because it posed the most immediate challenge to the government and to stability. But removing the FDLR was supposed to be the quid pro quo for eliminating the M23, as Wolters observes.

She notes that the FDLR and the FARDC have collaborated in the past to fight the M23, and might still be collaborating locally, raising Rwandan concerns about the DRC’s real determination to go after the FDLR. She says that Kagame’s suspicions were further inflamed when it emerged in June that international envoys to the Great Lakes had met with FDLR officials in Italy at peace talks organised by the Catholic NGO, Sant’Egidio (which had helped broker an end to the Mozambican civil war).

Byiringiro has been demanding that Kagame engage in political dialogue about the future of Rwanda in exchange for the FDLR laying down arms. But Kagame remains adamantly opposed to talking with ‘genocidaires,’ and in any case seems allergic to any kind of talk of greater democracy back home.

‘I don’t think it’s a good development,’ Wolters concludes of the decision to give the FDLR six months to lay down arms. ‘It slows everything down and opens the door to let Rwanda back in.’

She acknowledges, though, that the FDLR’s offer to surrender has complicated matters for regional and international actors such as the ICGLR and SADC, as well as MONUSCO, and this may be a tribute to Byiringiro’s shrewdness. ‘Because how would it have looked if the FIB attacked people waving a white flag?’

Wolters agrees with other analysts that the FDLR has been weakened over the years but still remains a formidable force – in some ways more so than the M23, which was a more conventional army while the FDLR is more of a guerrilla operation that has insinuated itself into the civilian community. That would make any attempt to defeat it messy, with a higher probability of civilian casualties. And, in any case, if a strong FDLR offers Rwanda a reason for intervention, even a weak one serves as a convenient pretext for doing so.

The ICGLR and SADC will have to sharpen their monitoring skills – perhaps with the help of US surveillance drones – to ensure that the FDLR does not exploit the respite it has been given to re-gird itself for battle early next year. At the very least they must ensure that by the end of three-month interim review period, 2 October, they have a pretty clear picture of what the FDLR is up to.

Peter Fabricius, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers, South Africa  ISS

South Africa – Zuma budget to concentrate on service delivery, communications and planning

Mail and Guardian

The presidency’s budget will look at ensuring competent public services, better communication with the public and increased planning and monitoring.

President Jacob Zuma. (Gallo)

Service delivery will be the priority of the government’s programme over the next year and President Jacob Zuma has stressed the need for efficient public service to meet government’s goals.

It is not only the speed with which services are delivered that Zuma emphasised, but the manner in which public servants deliver the services.

“We will assess the manner in which enquiries and complaints from the public are handled, the courtesy and friendliness of staff and the speed with which members of the public are attended to,” Zuma told Parliament on Wednesday.

Zuma was delivering the presidency budget vote for the 2014/15 financial year. He and also laid out the plans for the presidency during this period.

His speech was more focussed and pointed than the State of the Nation Address (Sona), which he delivered in Parliament just over a month ago.

Building relationships
Zuma revealed that the presidency would also seek to build relationships with a range of sectors including small businesses, the media and  higher education institutions through presidential working groups for the sake of development and progress. There would also be a return of the presidential izimbizo to promote two-way communication with the public.

He said the journey towards prosperity and job-creating growth involved radical change in government planning, implementation and monitoring.

“We will continue to prioritise five key areas this term – education, health, rural development and land reform, the fight against crime and corruption, as well as creating decent work,” said Zuma.

The president, following up on his announcement during Sona last month, that the government was planning to heighten energy generation capacity revealed an “energy security Cabinet sub-committee that would oversee the development of the energy mix”.

The sub-committee will comprise representatives from the departments of energy, international relations and co-operation, public enterprises, finance, state security, trade and industry, economic development, mineral resources, environmental affairs and defence. It will explore various options including nuclear power, gas, solar, wind, coal, hydro power and fuel refineries, said Zuma.

He also revealed that the president’s co-ordinating council will be used to build and support local government.

PCC to improve output
Zuma said the government’s co-operative governance framework provided for the existence of a President’s Co-ordinating Council [PCC], a mechanism that brings together the presidency, crosscutting ministries, premiers and the South African Local Government Association, to discuss issues affecting the three spheres of government.

“We want to improve the performance and output of the PCC, and in particular, utilise the structure more effectively to build and support the local government sphere,” he said.

Zuma emphasised the importance of an efficient public service.

“To achieve the goals of a better society, we need a professional, people centred, effective, efficient and disciplined public service,” he said.

He announced that through the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation, the government would keep track of progress made by departments in improving government performance, and also in promoting caring and responsive governance.

He revealed that with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, he has been meeting with Cabinet ministers, their deputies and directors general, to discuss the priorities and action plans of each department.

The exercise will culminate in the signing of performance agreements by the president and each minister.

Quality of service
Zuma said the ministers would in turn conclude delivery agreements with partners, who would work with them to achieve their goals. These partners will include colleagues in the provincial executive councils.

He said beyond the major projects and work of departments, they would also monitor the quality of services to people.

“We will assess the manner in which enquiries and complaints from the public are handled, the courtesy and friendliness of staff and the speed with which members of the public are attended to.”

Zuma said the Batho Pele [People First] citizen care programme was being revitalised and would be mainstreamed in every department in order to improve performance and services to the public.

The performance of the presidential hotline and other call centres serving the public in various departments would continue to be useful barometers of how government relates to the public.

Communication
Zuma added that a new priority this term would be the mainstreaming of communication in government departments.

In this regard, he established an inter-ministerial committee on information and publicity. This would be led by the Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe. “The committee will promote and co-ordinate communication and marketing within government,” he said.

The presidency would also lead the government with izimbizo, door-to-door campaigns and other mass-based platforms to promote communication with people.

The presidential izimbizo programme was first launched under former president Thabo Mbeki’s government, where members of the public would interact directly with government on issues that troubled communities. But the programme was abandoned with Mbeki’s departure from office.

Zuma also announced plans by the presidency to institutionalise partnerships with various stakeholders by reconstituting the presidential working groups to promote partnerships for development and progress.

The presidential business working group will bring together chairpersons and chief executives of major companies in the country, as well as key ministers in the economic sector, to discuss the performance of the economy.

Nedlac working group
A joint working group that will bring together the social partners represented at National Economic Development and Labour Council – business, labour, government and the community sectors – would be established to seek joint solutions to challenges facing all sectors.

“We have already placed some items on the agenda of this working group, such as the minimum wage proposal and the impact of strikes with a long duration,” said Zuma.

The presidency was also finalising plans to launch a presidential working group on communication and the media, which would bring together the government and organisations from the community and commercial media sectors.

Afterwards, Ramaphosa delivered his first speech in the National Assembly in 18 years following his departure from Parliament in 1996 to the private sector.

“While much has changed inside this house since I last had the privilege to stand here, most remarkable are the changes that have taken place outside this house – on the streets of South Africa, in our townships and villages, in our classrooms, in our clinics, in our places of work,” he said.

Breakthrough
Ramaphosa called on parties represented in Parliament to continue working together if South Africa is to realise its socio-economic goals.

“This is how we achieved our democratic breakthrough in 1994. As parties came together to negotiate and eventually agreed on the Constitution, they did so knowing full well that we needed a social compact that addressed the imbalances of the past.

“At the same time they imagined a future society, characterised by the values of non-racialism, non-sexism, freedom and prosperity for all … Working together has become part of our DNA. It is what unites us, what makes us exceptional,” said Ramaphosa.

He said that the government would continue to engage various sectors of society to detail the contribution they can make to the implementation of the national development plan.

“To this end, I have met the [chief executives] of major banks who have committed to develop concrete implementation plans that include funding options for our infrastructure programme.

“Mr president, perhaps this is the time to call for an end to the so-called investment strike and I am confident that the private sector will respond favourably when we meet them at the presidential big business working group,” he said.

‘Lead or step aside’
Like his predecessor Lindiwe Mazibuko, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane called on Zuma to step up and show leadership.

Maimane charged that without bold leadership, the National Development Plan was being stalled by its enemies who are in alliance with the ruling ANC.

“I therefore put it to the honourable president: at a time when our challenges are enormous, there are but two options. Mr president, lead or step aside … ”

Maimane said for Zuma to lead would be to take the difficult and bold decisions necessary to return South Africa to the path of greatness and to the land of opportunities for all and to take one’s cue from Parliament, not the parliament that is Luthuli House.

“There is a very important difference,” he said.

“When the honourable president fails to lead, but is rather simply a political captive being led, then it is time to step aside,” he said.

Maimane went on to present a to-do list for Zuma, which he said would prove his leadership capabilities.

Medical attention
A subdued looking Economic Freedom Fighters’s (EFF) leader Julius Malema began his address by congratulating the ANC MPs for coming out openly in support of the Palestinian struggle.

Malema then called on ANC MPs to put pressure on Zuma to expel the Israeli ambassador to South Africa.

He then spoke about his party’s upcoming first birthday and how the other political parties had underestimated the support it enjoys.

He warned that the EFF was a government in waiting. “If anyone still doubts that today, that person needs … medical attention,” said Malema.


South Africa – rhino poacher gets 77 year sentence

BBC

South African rhino poacher jailed for 77 years

A rhino in Kruger National Park in Skukuza, South Africa, February 2013 More than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2013

A South African rhino poacher has been sentenced to 77 years in prison in one of the heaviest sentences aimed at curbing the illegal trade.

Mandla Chauke was arrested in the world famous Kruger National Park in 2011 for killing three rhino calves.

He was also convicted for the murder of his accomplice who was killed in a shoot-out with rangers.

Poachers killed a record 1,004 rhinos in South Africa in 2013, amid concern that the animal could become extinct.

South Africa is home to 70% of the world’s rhinos.

Chauke’s lengthy sentence, imposed by a magistrate’s court, was welcomed by South Africa’s national parks service as a “huge triumph for the rhino”.

Rhino killed by poachers Wildlife officials say they are determined to curb poaching

It gave a much-needed “boost to the anti-poaching teams who endure harsh conditions for the protection of our parks”, the parks service said in a statement.

The court took the rare step of convicting Chauke for the murder of an accomplice who was shot dead by park rangers.

It rejected his argument that he was coerced into poaching by his accomplices, one of whom escaped.

Chauke was convicted of murder, rhino horn theft, illegal hunting, trespassing and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

In 2012, a South African court sentenced a Thai national to 40 years in prison for selling rhino horns.

Rhino horn sold illegally can fetch as much as $95,000 (£56,500) per kilo (2.2lb) – more than gold, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

Large syndicates are involved in a multi-billion dollar trade worldwide, exporting the horns to both Asia and the Middle East.

Some people regard rhino horns as a status symbol and a healing agent, despite a lack of evidence that it can cure illnesses.  bbc

Central African Republic ceasefire agreed

Reuters

Central African Republic groups sign ceasefire after talks

BRAZZAVILLE Thu Jul 24, 2014

Seleka fighters take a break as they sit on a pick-up truck in the town of Goya June 11, 2014. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Seleka fighters take a break as they sit on a pick-up truck in the town of Goya June 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) – Central African Republic’s mainly Muslim Seleka rebels signed a ceasefire with the “anti-balaka” Christian militia on Wednesday, after having dropped their demand for the country to be split in two along religious lines.

Seleka’s call for the country to be officially partitioned into a Muslim north and a Christian south risked derailing talks in Congo Republic aimed at ending religious violence that has killed thousands of people.

The ceasefire was signed in Brazzaville after three days of talks hosted by President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, mediator in his neighbouring country’s crisis, which has forced a million people, or about a quarter of the CAR population, to flee their homes.

“We have taken the first step today. The journey is long, but we have made promises. After what has happened here, I am confident,” Sassou N’Guesso said at the signing ceremony.

The Brazzaville talks have involved dozens of members of armed groups, the transitional government and civil society members. Further negotiations will now be held in Central African Republic to hammer out details over disarmament and mapping out the country’s political future.

“We have signed this ceasefire agreement today in front of everyone. Our commitment is firm and irreversible,” said Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane, head of the Seleka delegation at the talks.

Patrick Edouard Ngaissona, head of the anti-balaka delegation, echoed the pledges of peace, saying anyone caught breaking the ceasefire would be arrested.

The former French colony has been gripped by violence since Seleka, a coalition of rebels centred around northerners and some fighters from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, seized power in March 2013.

Seleka’s rule was marked by abuses that prompted the creation of the anti-balaka militia. Cycles of tit-for-tat violence have continued despite Seleka’s leaders stepping down from power in January.

About 2,000 French and another 6,000 African peacekeepers have been deployed to Central African Republic, but they have struggled to help the weak transitional government stamp its authority on the mineral-rich country.

Most Muslims have fled the south of the country, creating a de facto partition, but Seleka’s Dhaffane had pushed for this to be formalised.

The demand was dropped after hours with talks with Sassou N’Guesso earlier on Wednesday.  Reuters

 

CAR peace talks suspended as Seleka absent

VoA/allAfrica

Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch

Seleka rebels in Bossangoa.

Peace talks between the government of the Central African Republic and rebels have been suspended, after the main rebel group failed to show up for the second day of the session.

The talks, in the neighboring Republic of Congo, were put on hold Tuesday due to the absence of former Seleka rebels.

A former C.A.R. minister, Abacar Sabone, who now represents the MLCJ (Movement of the Central African Liberators for Justice) rebel group, told VOA’s French to Africa Service that mediators went to the hotel where Seleka representatives are staying to try to get them to return.

By late Tuesday afternoon, there was no word on whether the delegates will return for the third and final day of the talks on Wednesday.

On Monday, Seleka leader Moussa Daffane said a partition is needed in the Central African Republic before the mostly Muslim Seleka can hold talks with mostly Christian anti-balaka militants.

He called for the C.A.R. to be divided into a Muslim north and a Christian south.

Relief organizations estimate at least 2,000 people have been killed in the C.A.R.’s unrest and more than one million have been forced to flee from their homes.

The unrest began last year when Seleka toppled President Francois Bozize. Subsequent attacks and looting by Seleka forces sparked retaliatory attacks by the anti-balaka.

On Tuesday, the U.N. refugee agency issued a new appeal for aid to help the more than 350,000 C.A.R. residents who are now refugees in neighboring countries.

Spokesman Babar Baloch said many of the new refugees are malnourished, after having spent weeks walking through forests with little food or water. allAfrica

Central African Republic – Seleka to sign ceasefire and drop partition demand

Reuters

(Reuters) – Central African Republic’s mainly Muslim Seleka rebels will sign a ceasefire with ‘anti-balaka’ Christian militia on Wednesday, having dropped their demands for the country to be split in two along religious lines, Seleka officials told Reuters.

Seleka’s call for the country to be officially partitioned into a Muslim north and a Christian south risked derailing talks in Congo Republic aimed at ending religious violence that has killed thousands of people and forced 1 million to flee their homes.

“We will be signing the cessation of hostilities agreement this afternoon,” Colonel Youssouf Ben Moussa, a senior Seleka official, said by telephone from the Seleka-controlled north of Central African Republic.

“Our demand for the partition of the country has been dropped. That demand is obsolete now: what we have agreed to is the sharing of power,” Moussa added.

Most Muslims have fled the south of the former French colony, creating a de-facto partition, but Seleka leaders had pushed for this to be formalised.

Members of Seleka’s negotiating team in Congo Republic confirmed the information. They said they would provide further details after the signing of the deal in Brazzaville, where delegates from the armed groups, transitional government and civil society have held three days of talks.

The former French colony has been gripped by violence since Seleka seized power in March last year. Seleka’s rule was marked by abuses that prompted the creation of the ‘anti-balaka’ militia. Cycles of tit-for-tat violence have continued despite Seleka’s leaders stepping down from power in January this year. Reuters