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Cameroon Truckers Resume Work after CAR Rebels Release Hostages

GAROUA BOULAI, CAMEROON - Truckers from Cameroon are crossing into the Central African Republic again, after the C.A.R. government convinced rebels to release abducted drivers. The truckers provide an important lifeline to the landlocked C.A.R.

Cameroonian truckers cautiously resumed routes into the Central African Republic this week, after C.A.R. authorities persuaded rebels last Friday to release drivers they took hostage.

Three weeks ago, the rebels abducted 10 Cameroonian drivers along with three female passengers as they returned from the C.A.R. capital, Bangui.

The security incident halted truck deliveries from Cameroon, a serious matter for the land-locked C.A.R., which depends on Cameroon's Douala seaport for about 95 percent of its supplies.

Ali Aboubakar was one of the abducted drivers who returned Monday to Cameroon. He said armed rebels had taken them far into the bush.

He said after three days, the rebels released the three women and asked them to tell C.A.R. authorities that the drivers they were looking for were being held. After his release, Aboubakar said he told C.A.R. authorities that he and his fellow drivers would no longer drive across the border without an escort for fear of being abducted.

While no formal announcement was made, a reporter saw United Nations peacekeeping troops this week escorting the trucks.

An official with the Douala-Bangui Truckers Union, Issa Adamu, said some truckers are still reluctant to return to work.

"We call on all our comrades to start work and to continue work without any fear because we will continue discussing with government in order to achieve more."

C.A.R. official Lamido Issa Bi Amadou brought Aboubakar back to Cameroon.

He said the abductions indicate there are still pockets of rebels resisting a peace deal.

He said he is very happy that the rebel group heeded the call of the C.A.R. government and freed both Cameroonian and Central African Republic hostages. But Amadou said nothing can justify why his countrymen should be abducting people who are simply helping to transport humanitarian and basic goods to their landlocked country.

Maxime Mokom is the C.A.R. minister for disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion.

He said some rebel groups are angry that President Faustin-Archange Touadera appointed members from only six of the 14 groups that signed a February peace deal as ministers.

He said it is rather unfortunate that some rebel leaders are refusing to respect the terms of the peace accord they signed with the government in Bangui on February 6, 2019 as a follow up to the negotiated peace deal in Khartoum.

The United Nations-brokered peace deal raised hopes for stability in the volatile Central African Republic after decades of armed conflict.

Source: Voice of America