Troops in the Central African Republic collected hundreds of weapons in a voluntary disarmament drive on Sunday, but officials said the haul was modest given the level of arms proliferation the strife-torn nation has seen in recent months.
Announced by Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke, the voluntary disarmament day was focused on eight districts in the capital Bangui and two neighbouring areas.
In the PK-5 district of Bangui, a last hold-out for the capital's Muslims, French and African peacekeepers collected 69 grenades, 13 bows, 62 arrows, 15 guns and about 200 munitions from around 190 individuals.
In Boy-rabe, a stronghold of mainly Christian militias, only 15 people responded to the call, handing in just three rockets, three mortars, three grenades and a few dozen munitions.
The prime minister said he was "satisfied" with the level of participation despite the modest haul.
"I feel a great sense of satisfaction. There is a commitment of the people," Nzapayeke said. He noted, however, that his satisfaction "comes from the popular enthusiasm and not from what was collected – since three times the amount could return in the night".
He described the operation as aimed at "reviving the civil spirit of Central Africans".
The impoverished country slipped into chaos last year after the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March 2013 coup. The Seleka officially disbanded after taking control but some former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting, prompting several communities in the Christian-majority nation to form vigilante "anti-balaka" militias, some of which sought revenge on the country's Muslim minority.
The religious conflict was an alarming development for the landlocked nation. For decades minority Muslims had lived peacefully with the Christians - who form about 80 percent of the 4.6-million-strong population - despite coups, misrule and army mutinies.
UN report accuses Chad
The neighbouring country of Chad on Sunday rejected UN claims that it had supported the Seleka rebels when they seized control of the Central African Republic after deposing president François Bozizé in March 2013.
An international enquiry set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported on Thursday that "enough proof exists" to believe that the Seleka rebels "received financial and military support from the government of Chad" to overthrow Bozizé.
Chad firmly rejected the accusations as "fantasies" in a statement and called on the UN "to stop, once and for all, its gratuitous campaign against Chad".
Chad's 850 peacekeepers withdrew from the country in April after being accused of siding with the Seleka rebels. The troops had been involved in several controversial incidents since arriving in the country, including reports that they opened fire on residents in the capital in late March, killing eight.
The Central African Republic has been in an unprecedented crisis since the Seleka rebels seized power. Their leader, Michel Djotodia, was forced out in January but months of inter-religious violence and revenge attacks followed, prompting France to warn in November that the country was "on the verge of genocide".
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in the violence.
France has deployed some 2,000 troops to support the 6,000-strong UN-backed MISCA force (African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic) seeking to re-establish stability in the country.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-09