May 10, 5:30 PM EDT

Armed groups in CAfrican Republic sign disarmament deal



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BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Rival armed groups in Central African Republic signed a deal Sunday to lay down their arms and end a conflict that has killed thousands, the United Nations said.

Lengthy negotiations saw the 10 armed groups sign the accord in which they agreed to "formally disarm, renounce armed struggle as a means of political demands and enter into a process of Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR)," the U.N. said.

The special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Central African Republic, Gen. Babacar Gaye, said the signing of the agreement has turned a page in the country.

"I want to believe that the commitment is sincere, and that we will engage in the construction of progressive peace," he said.

The agreement was signed at the end of a forum in the capital, Bangui, where politicians, civil society groups and others have gathered to discuss the country's future.

Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the longtime president in 2013. Widespread human rights abuses committed by Seleka led to the formation of the anti-Balaka Christian militia and plunged the country into sectarian fighting.

President Catherine Samba-Panza is now leading a transitional government that, along with a U.N. peacekeeping force, is trying to stabilize the country and steer it toward elections.

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