President grants amnesty to coup plotters

Central African Republic (CAR) President Francois Bozize has granted an amnesty to all those convicted of involvement in the 28 May 2001 coup attempt led by Andre Kolingba, state-controlled Radio Centrafrique reported on Wednesday.

In August 2002, a criminal court sentenced around 800 people, 600 of whom were outside the country, for their roles in the plot to oust then President Ange-Felix Patasse. Among them, Kolingba, his two sons, and around 20 others from his Yakoma ethnic group, were sentenced to death in absentia.

The radio said the amnesty did not mean the beneficiaries would automatically be reinstated in their former jobs. The minister of justice and Bozize would examine individual cases. Kolingba, who was president from 1981 to 1993, announced in March that he was ready to return home from exile if he were granted an amnesty.

Analysts see the amnesty as an important gesture towards reconciling CAR's ethnic groups. It may encourage the return home of around 10,000 Yakoma refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Bozize toppled Patasse in a coup on 15 March.