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Deal Ends Bangladeshi War

December 2, 1997

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Government and rebel negotiators signed an accord Tuesday to end a 22-year-old separatist war and give tribes greater control over Bangladesh’s resource-rich southeastern hills.

Hours after the long-awaited accord was signed, hundreds of government supporters poured into the streets of Dhaka in celebration, waving national flags and chanting, ``We want to live in peace.″

But several hundred opposition activists also took to the streets of the capital, complaining the pact undermined national sovereignty.

The rebels, mainly from the Chakma tribe, have promised to surrender their arms and ammunition in the next 45 days under an amnesty provision.

The government has agreed to let three elected district councils control the area’s land management and local police. The councils will be dominated by tribes, which account for two-thirds of the hill region’s 800,000 people.

The three councils will in turn elect a 22-member regional council; 15 of those seats will be for tribal members and the rest for Muslim migrants.

``I’m delighted,″ Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told reporters after watching the signing by chief government negotiator Abul Hsnat Abdullah and rebel leader Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma.

The tribal rebellion has claimed nearly 20,000 lives since it started in late 1975. It also blocked development of the southeastern hills, 110 miles southeast of Dhaka.

Chakmas are predominantly Buddhists, while most other Bangladeshis are Muslim. Thousands of Muslims have migrated to the region from overcrowded plains over the years, prompting tribal complaints that their culture is being swamped by the newcomers.

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