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CPJP - Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace

The CPJP - Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace - is a rebel group based in northeastern CAR and comprised primarily of Rounga tribesmen. The CPJP is remarkably well organized, equipped, and run relative to other ragtag rebel groups in the CAR. The CPJP's stronghold of Akoursoubak was the scene of a formal ceremony where promotions were bestowed upon a select group of officers. There were recognizable military police manning check points, distinctly separate from the regular militiamen.

By 2009 a new armed group (CPJP - Patriotic Convention for Justice and Peace) was active in the north. The CPJP was originally said to be made up of UFDR members of the Rounga tribe who broke with the Goula dominated UFDR after being expelled from the diamond fields near Sam Ouandja. Former Minister of Defense Charles Massi declared himself to be the spokesman of the group, but as his home is in the extreme west of the country and he had no previous engagement in the Ndele region, his role and importance are not clear. In any case, while Massi was languishing in a Chadian jail as of early June 2009, the CPJP remained very active. Political commentators from the Birao area say that this group is not connected in any way with the Kara/Gouala conflict in the Birao area.

The origins of the CPJP lie in their opposition to the Goula led UFDR and their complaints that the Goula pushed them off their diamond fields. While the group draws its force from long term ethnic tension between the Rounga and Goula tribes, the leadership of the group may well be Chadian or Sudanese; former members of the President Bozize's Presidential Guard (GP). Intelligent observers in the region were very worried that conflict will spread across the Vakaga region unless the Central African Government (CARG) takes immediate action to resolve the issues.

The uniforms of the CPJP are reported to be new and originating from the Chadian National Army (ANT). The CPJP does not extort taxes from the local population, a practice common among the other militia groups in the CAR. Many in the Rounga community, both in Ndele and in Bangui, purport to be perplexed by the CPJP. While they admit that some of their youth have joined the CPJP, they hold fast that the leadership is ``foreign'' - a term of ambiguous definition. By the end of 2009 there were two major groups outside of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program (DDR) peace process -- the Patriotic Convention for Justice and Peace (CPJP), Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC) -- along with a number of smaller armed bands.

Diamonds may very well sit at the heart of the simmering conflict between the government and the Patriotic Convention for Justice and Peace (CPJP), an armed group dominated by the Rounga. The CPJP militia formed in 2008 after the Rounga were expelled from their diamond fields in the Vakaga by the UFDR and swiftly moved southwest to Ndele - traditional home of the Rounga and location of diamonds deposits dating back to the 1950s. Though their leadership remains shrouded in mystery, a number of well informed observers believe the funding for the militia comes from these diamond assets.

After violence in 2007 in the Vakaga, the CARG subcontracted responsibility for the region to the increasingly Goula dominated UFDR led by Zakaria Damane in return for payments back to Bangui. The UFDR was previously multiethnic, but started to fragment once the conflict with the CARG subsided. Damane, a Goula, maintained his support within the UFDR by increasingly relying on his ethnicity against all others. The Rounga in particular suffered and were pushed off their traditional diamond fields in eastern CAR and specifically those at Sam Ouandja and Bria.

It was this event that sparked the creation of the CPJP. It is thought that the CPJP is a combination of former Rounga UFDR fighters and potentially former Presidential Guard members who helped President Bozize to power in 2003 but who then found themselves alienated from Bangui. They coalesced around the Rounga who now run the diamond mines around Ndele and may be seeking to obtain a deal similar to the one that Damane attained from Bozize: control over the diamonds and trade in the region in return for payments back to Bozize.

All indications were that President Bozize decided to "resolve the issue by force." He is reported to have said as much in his Sango (but not French) speech in Ndele on World Food Day. The FACA's apparent return to their failed tactics of violence and intimidation has already produced a flow of refugees across the border to Chad.

Ndele, Central African Republic (CAR) remained the locus of a serious threat to Central African political stability. While the Northeast and west maintained their violent potential, the Patriotic Convention for Justice and Peace (CPJP) went into the 2009 rainy season increasingly political, reinforced by the dissident elements of the Democratic Front for the Central African People (FDPC), and unengaged politically by the Central African Government (CARG). As such, unless they are forcefully engaged in the coming months, the CPJP may indeed pose the single greatest threat to the CARG.

On 13 June 2009, the Central African Army (FACA) was ambushed by the CPJP on the road from Ndele to the Chadian border and lost at least three soldiers. Independent, unconfirmed reports claim that the FACA left several additional dead on the field. While an immediate move towards Ndele is always possible, a move towards Bangui, grew increasingly remote by the day as the roads turn into muddy quagmires with the rains. Also, the CPJP did not appear to have the motorized capacity to set off on the road to Bangui. They did not appear to have the political interest either. Thus, they seemed likely settle for a compromise solution, such as renewed access to diamond mines taken by the Goula of the Union of United of Democratic Forces (UFDR) after the CARG/UFDR accords of 2007. Yet, the time off during the rainy season could give them occasion to conjure up bigger dreams.

Despite a peace deal agreed to between Abdoulaye Miskine of the FDPC and the CARG, dissident members of his group set out to join the CPJP. Between ten to fifty members of the FDPC headed out on foot to Ndele in June 2009 to join the CPJP, probably as guns for hire, though possibly for ideological reasons. The later would be troubling and lend credence to the theory that the CPJP are not hoodlums looking to be demobilized and paid but may instead feel they have legitimate grievances against the CARG - making them all the more dangerous. Thus, while President Bozize has scored a reasonable political victory in decommissioning the troublesome FDPC, not all of Miskine's soldiers will go quietly and the CPJP, already the major menace to the CARG, may be stronger for it.

MINURCAT was directed to protect the refugees in the town of Sam Ouandja. Sam Ouandja had been quiet since its brief occupation by Zakaria Damane's Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) in 2007. Until late 2009, the UFDR and the CARG jointly ran the town and controlled its comparatively lucrative diamond and game trade. During 2007, Sudanese were not allowed to mine diamonds. Over 2009, however, the Sudanese refugees began mining for diamonds and were increasingly active in game poaching both for meat and ivory This may or may not be related to the rise of the CPJP as the Rounga who make up the majority of the CPJP were the traditional miners of the Sam Ouandja fields. This in turn is creating tension with the local inhabitants, who are supported by the UFDR and CARG. On 11 December 2009, tensions boiled over when an ambush of two UFDR members traveling on a motorcycle resulted in the deaths of both militia men and one ambusher. To make matters worse, one of Damane's close relatives was among the two UFDR slain. The UFDR believe the attackers came from the refugee camp; however the head of the camp denied that the dead ambusher originated from his community.

In the early morning of 26 November 2009, the CPJP launched a surprise attack on the provincial capital Ndele, targeting government installations like the headquarters of the Presidential Guard, the gendarmerie, and the Prefet's house. The CPJP hit targets with rocket propelled grenades and light arms, occupied and looted the government buildings, and left at noon when the FACA began its counter attack. There are reports of looting in the town - it is confirmed that the CPJP absconded with the Prefet's vehicle - but it is unclear if the looting was the work of the CPJP or that of the local population taking advantage of the chaos.

Nevertheless, within the day, the FACA - who melted away during the attack - regrouped and counter attacked, regaining control of the town by the afternoon. Multiple reports from Ndele mention wounded CPJP fighters summarily executed by the FACA, with one specific report of a CPJP officer - and allegedly a former wildlife park ranger - being shot after brief questioning. There were various exaggerated estimates of killed and wounded on both sides.

Ndele is a town made up mostly of mud buildings with thatched roofs, and a number of buildings and houses burned as a result of the fighting. While neither side seems to have purposefully set fire to residences, one very important residence did suffer damage - that of the Sultan of Ndele. The Sultan is a man of great influence in the region and an informal interlocutor between the government and the CPJP. Some suspect his residence, though close to the FACA base and possibly the victim of stray fire, was likely targeted by FACA mortar fire. Many in the government question the Sultan's allegiances and the mortar blast could be interpreted as a message to the local leader.

The day after the attack on Ndele, the CPJP released an updated organizational chart (these names are possibly pseudonyms as combatants from this area often take on symbolic names) Dhafane Mohamed Moussa was named as Secretary General and Official Negotiator, in charge External Relationships. Colonel Richard Deye was Chief of Staff, and Colonel Issa Adam - Troop Commander. The shadowy Karama Souleymane Nestor remained President of the Supreme Council of the Movement, but rumors suggest that Nestor, who may not be a Rounga, is only a figurehead for the real power figures of the CPJP Interestingly, Charles Massi -- the four time former Central African Minister, former member of the Central African National Assembly and proclaimed President of the CPJP earlier in the year - was conspicuously left off the announcement. This is likely as a result of the failure of Massi to bring the CARG to the negotiating table.



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Page last modified: 30-12-2012 20:15:52 ZULU