Central African Republic - C.A.R.
Human Rights Watch accused rebels in the Central African Republic of committing serious rights violations before and after the coup in the turmoil-torn nation. Summary executions, rape, torture and pillaging: Human Rights Watch says it has found compelling evidence of horrific rights violations committed by the Seleka rebel coalition in Bangui and elsewhere in the Central African Republic in recent months. Released on May 10, 2013, HRW's accusations followed a 10-day investigation CAR - a nation that some describe as "the wound in the heart of Central Africa."
Rebels in the Central African Republic seized the presidential palace as fighting intensified in the capital Bangui on 24 March 2013. The president of the Central African Republic, François Bozizé, left the capital Bangui after it fell to rebel hands. French military forces in the country were reinforced to protect the security of an estimated 1,200 French expatriates, who had been urged to stay home. Another 800 foreigners from other countries are also believed to be in the country. Some 350 French troops from neighboring Gabon have arrived to reinforce 250 French soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic (CAR) gained independence from France in 1960 but has since seen many conflicts, coups and uprisings. This land-locked nation has known little but instability since independence. In 2008, the Central African Republic ranked 178 out of 179 on the Human Development Index. CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the only countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that had not improved human development since the 1980s. In 2011, the Central African Republic ranked 178 out of 187 on the Human Development Index.
Despite massive natural wealth that should provide a comfortable standard of living for its 4.3 million inhabitants, the CAR continues to struggle with extreme poverty, malnutrition, rampant banditry and several festering insurgencies. Periodic skirmishes persist over water and grazing rights among related pastoral populations along the border with southern Sudan. Factional fighting between the government and its opponents remains a hindrance to revitalization. The Central African Republic is one of the world's least developed nations, and despite an on-going peace process and the presence of a democratically-elected government in the capital, Bangui, rebels are still active in large portions of the country's northern and eastern provinces.
Governance in the Central African Republic (CAR) is extremely weak due to numerous political upheavals dating back to the 1980s. Instability endures as a result of the presence of multiple insurgent groups, bands of highway robbers active throughout the north, an extremely weak and often ineffective military, and limited state presence outside of Bangui. While the CAR Government has shown improvement in its financial management, it remains deeply underfunded and relies heavily on donor support.
The rebel group Seleka ["alliance" in the Sango language] united fighters from as many as four rebel groups in the north. The rebel coalition accused President Francois Bozize of failing to honor a 2007 agreement that included provisions that its fighters would be reintegrated and paid after laying down their arms in a previous uprising. Many of them were involved in a four-year conflict that officially ended with peace accords in 2007, though fighting has repeatedly flared up in the north since 2009. In 2011 two of the groups in the coalition — the UFDR and the CJPJ — fought a deadly battle in the diamond mining town of Bria over control of that industry.
President Francois Bozize said he was willing to negotiate a unity government. However, rebels said he must go. It remains to be seen whether or not a negotiated solution is still possible. On March 20, 2013 rebels in the Central African Republic said they were ending a cease-fire after the government failed to meet a series of recent demands. Eric Massi, a spokesman for the Seleka rebel coalition said on Wednesday that the rebel ultimatum has "expired" and hostilities may resume. Seleka has accused the government of not living up to that accord, and demanded the departure of South African troops protecting the government in the capital, Bangui.
Regional leaders organized peace talks in Gabon on 10 January 2013 between the government of the Central African Republic and a northern rebel alliance. On January 11, the government and rebels agreed to a peace plan that allows President Francois Bozize to remain in power until his term ends in 2016. Under the agreement, the president appointed Tiangaye, an opposition lawyer, as prime minister. Neither the president nor the prime minister will be eligible to run in the 2016 presidential election. But by 22 January 2013 members of the rebel coalition violated the terms of the peace deal and cease-fire. Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye said elements of the Seleka rebel alliance had entered towns and vandalized government buildings, violating the accord between the government and rebels.
About six dozen soldiers from Congo-Brazzaville arrived in Bangui on 31 December 2012 to reinforce the Central African regional peacekeeping force, FOMAC, which is backing up government troops. Gabon, Chad and Cameroon are also sending in reinforcements. Gabriel Enteha Ebia, the Congo-Brazzaville ambassador in Bangui, said the rebels understand that they must stop their advance on Damara. If FOMAC troops are attacked, the ambassador said they will defend themselves and prevent the rebels from taking the area.
By January 12, 2013 President Francois Bozize began implementing a peace agreement with rebels reached during talks in Gabon that called for a unity government in Bangui. President Francois Bozize said he had dissolved the current government, effective immediately, and that a new prime minister would be nominated by the political opposition. Details of the C.A.R. peace agreement indicate that Bozize will remain in power as president. Neither the prime minister nor Bozize would be eligible to run in the next presidential election. Bozize said that new legislative elections will be held in 2014.
By 30 December 2012 the rebel group in the Central African Republic known as Seleka warned that they could enter the capital Bangui soon, despite their agreement with the government to hold unconditional talks in early January 2013. The rebels' threat came three weeks after they began their uprising. In that time, they seized control of about one-third of the country and forced the CAR military to retreat to Damara, the last major town on the way to Bangui, about 75 kilometers away. The speed and ease with which this united rebel army seized key towns in the north was due to the fact that government troops put up little resistance.
The rebels said their fast-moving offensive was aimed at ousting President Francois Bozize. Rebels have threatened to overthrow Bozize if he failed to fully implement the 2007 peace deal. In a statement 24 December 2012, the group demanded, among other things, that the government free political prisoners and pay rebel soldiers money it had promised if they surrendered their weapons. The Chadian army was deployed strategically around the capital to protect it. By the end of 2012 the rebels controlled about one-third of the national territory, but some observers believed their objective was not necessarily to take Bangui and overthrow the government. The rebels may have seized key towns to demonstrate their military superiority, and put themselves in a strong position at the negotiating table. On 30 December 2012 Central African Republic President Francois Bozize said he was willing to enter into a coalition government with the rebels. Bozize made his comments in a press conference following his meeting with visiting African Union chief Thomas Yayi Boni.
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS / CEEAC) is considering asking for an increased military presence in the country, where a peace-keeping mission of about 400 soldiers called Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) is already active. The force is one of five brigade-size elements that make up the AU's African Standby Force (ASF) - created to respond to crises on the African continent. The African Union (AU) is ready to deploy extra troops in the Central African Republic if requested. The CEEAC could respond to a crisis in its area of responsibility composed of Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe and Chad.
Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner of the AU's Peace and Security Council, said “Rebel movements are considered as illegal, and therefore we and the African Union consider that rebel movements should be deterred from resorting to force" even if the rebels and others recognize the legitimacy of the Seleka agenda.
The members of the UN Security Council emphasized on 19 December 2012 that groups jeopardizing the country's stability must be held accountable for their actions. The United States Embassy and the United Nations evacuated employees because of the violence. On 28 December 2012 the Security Council demanded that armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) immediately cease hostilities, following attacks on several towns in recent days, and called on all parties to seek a peaceful solution to the current crisis. In a statement issued to the press, the 15-member body condemned “the continued attacks on several towns perpetrated by the ‘Seleka' coalition of armed groups which gravely undermine the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement and threaten the civilian population as well as the stability of the Central African Republic.... The members of the Security Council reiterate their demand that the armed groups immediately cease hostilities, withdraw from captured cities and cease any further advance towards the city of Bangui."
The President of the Central African Republic called on France and the United States to help push back advancing rebel fighters, but the idea was flatly rejected by the French President. “We ask our French cousins and the United States of America, the great powers, to help us to push back the rebels…to allow for dialogue in Libreville [Gabon] to resolve the current crisis,” he said in a public speech.
France, which had about 200 soldiers in Bangui, said that it will not intervene, and that its forces are there to protect French interests. About 250 French troops were in the former French colony as part of a peacekeeping mission, but by the end of 2012 it increased that number to nearly 600 troops. Some in the C.A.R. want France to do more to counter the rebel threat. French President Francois Hollande said France is in the C.A.R. to protect its interests and nationals, not to intervene in the country's business. "Generally speaking, if we are there [in C.A.R.], it's not to protect a regime but to protect our citizens and our interests, and not at all to interfere in domestic matters of a country, as it happens, Central African Republic," he said. "This time is over."
The fundamental problem of the CAR is at least thirty years of weak and corrupt governments that have failed (if they even attempted) to forge a national consensus and develop the country. Rebel groups are merely one symptom of the disease of poor governance - not the root cause of instability. Similarly, cross border adventures into the CAR by Chadians and Sudanese are not symptoms of the spread of the Chad/Sudan/Darfur conflict. Most Chadians and Sudanese who are active in the CAR are here as opportunists or at the invitation of various CAR factions looking for experienced help.
The international community and the government of the Central African Republic (CARG) had attached much importance to Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) as the solution to the Central African Republic's (CAR) long running conflict. This would appear logical - disarm the rebels and reintegrate them back in to a peaceful society. This process, promoted by the United Nations (UN) in the Central African Republic (CAR) was beset by problems such as the slow roll out of the program, mismanagement of funds by the government (CARG) and difficulty raising funds from the international community. Despite an agreement reached in April 2009 that produced a list of rebels to be disarmed and the acceptance by the CARG to use money granted by the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) for DDR for its expressed purpose, observers placed too much faith in the process as a solution to the CAR's ills.
Until the CAR Government has the means, and more importantly, the will, to fill the vacuum left behind by disarmed groups, both on a security and economic front, the effort is unlikely to accomplish its goals. And beyond that is the overarching problem that the CAR is a failed state - there is simply no economy into which former combatants can be "reintegrated."
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