Demonstrators in Central African Republic protest against rising violence

Thousands of demonstrators marched Friday to protest rising violence in Central African Republic , calling for the government and a new rebel group to work toward peace. Some 3,000 trade unionists, human rights advocates and others waved placards reading "No to rebellion" as they wended their way through the streets of the capital, Bangui .

"We want peace not violence," said one organizer, Noel Ramadan. Other protesters said the government and a new countryside insurgent group should lay down arms and work toward a cessation of hostilities. Since fresh attacks in September ended a period of relative calm, 20,000 refugees have fled north into Chad and 50,000 others are believed displaced from their homes and living in rough conditions inside the country, the U.N. says.

The rebel fighters, about which little is known, mostly operate in the north, far from Bangui . They have twice attacked military installations and tried unsuccessfully to capture the town of Paoua to use as a headquarters. During fighting there in late January, the government said 27 people died. Attacks and insecurity have continued since.

Central African Republic has suffered decades of army revolts, coups d'etat and rebellions since the nation of 3.6 million gained independence from France in 1960. The latest wave of attacks ended a period of relative calm after Gen. Francois Bozize seized power in 2003 before later winning presidential elections.

While the landlocked nation is rich in gold, diamonds and other minerals, its governments have been chronically cash-poor, unable to meet payrolls of the military and civil servants and lawlessness and insecurity has reigned in the countryside, reports the AP.

N.U.