Central African Republic launched talks on Monday to try to end multiple bush rebellions, but translating dialogue into lasting stability will be a major challenge for the poor, violence-torn nation.The U.N.-backed talks hosted by President Francois Bozize brought together rebel and opposition leaders with the government to seek solutions to years of simmering conflict which has driven thousands of villagers from their homes.

lra-pixThose taking part in the dialogue, scheduled to last until December 20, included former President Ange-Felix Patasse, who was overthrown by Bozize in a 2003 coup but who returned to his country on Sunday from five years in exile.The landlocked former French colony, which remains among the poorest nations in the world despite its diamond and uranium deposits, has a bloody history of coups, revolts and unrest.

Bozize’s government has signed ceasefires and peace deals with several northern rebel groups and promulgated a contested amnesty law to set up the talks, which are intended to thrash out a blueprint for a stable democratic future. “It’s already a breakthrough … Everyone was very skeptical but now we have a political dialogue starting which is an achievement in itself,” said Romain Grandjean of the Swiss-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, co-facilitating the talks.

Gabonese President Omar Bongo helped bring the insurgents to the table.While U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the dialogue as an opportunity for genuine reconciliation, recent attacks by rebels, including dissident members of insurgent groups, have raised questions about whether a peace process can hold.”One of the biggest challenges of the talks is to establish a connection between the dialogue and the reality on the ground,” Grandjean told Reuters.

Opening the talks, Bozize pledged his government would respect the proposals which emerged. But he added: “We must be clear that the reconstruction of the country must exclude all armed reaction … Enough is enough.”



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