BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic on Wednesday launched a program to collect unauthorized weapons in response to rampant violence and petty crime in the chronically unstable nation.
Security Minister Jose Binoua announced the program at the police headquarters in the capital, Bangui. The ceremony was attended by President Michel Djotodia, whose Seleka rebel coalition overthrew ex-President Francois Bozize in March.
Djotodia has been criticized for failing to rein in his fighters, who have been accused of killing and raping civilians and even carrying out massacres outside the capital. His government has repeatedly blamed the violence on other armed groups that are not part of Seleka.
The disarmament program will target civilians as well as Seleka fighters bearing weapons outside six authorized security installations, Binoua said.
"No citizen of this country, or foreigner living in this country, can possess arms without the proper authorization from the Ministry of Territorial Administration," Binoua said.
The program is expected to last at least 10 days, and during that time the boundaries of Bangui will be closed, meaning vehicles will not be allowed to travel to and from the provinces.
Binoua called on Seleka elements to deposit any unauthorized weapons at a gendarmerie post in Bangui.
Anyone caught violating weapons regulations will be severely punished, Binoua said.
A regional peacekeeping force launched a separate disarmament program in July. But the force has a limited presence outside the capital, and the program has had little effect.