Michel Djotodia, a former rebel leader who became president of the Central African Republic (CAR) for 10 months during the civil war, has returned home exactly six years after going into exile.
He led the Seleka rebel group that propelled him to power to become CAR’s first Muslim ruler in September 2013.
But the country was plunged into a conflict between the Muslim minority and Christian majority as a band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-balaka, rose up to counter Seleka.
In January 2014, at a meeting in Chad organised by regional leaders to try to end the violence, Mr Djotodia resigned and headed into exile in Benin.
More than 14,000 UN peacekeepers are in the country, where armed groups still hold sway.
According to the AFP news agency, Mr Djotodia was welcomed at a hotel in the capital, Bangui, by some of his supporters and was given an escort by the security forces on Friday morning.
He is quoted as telling journalists: “2020 will be a year of peace. I am no longer a man of war, I am a man of peace.”
Afterwards he told AFP: “I urge all the rebels to be patient. There is a peace agreement which has been signed. It is time for all of us, fighters and all Central Africans, to stand up to pacify the country.”
The most recent peace deal was signed in February last year, which has lessened the intensity of the violence but not ended it, AFP reports.
He is expected to meet President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who won elections in 2016, later on Friday, the agency says.
The next presidential elections are scheduled to take place in December.