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Central African Republic - C.A.R. - 2013

There was a complete breakdown of law and order in the country following the ouster of former President Franois Boziz in March 2013. As rebels pushed south toward Bangui in early 2013, the president they would oust, Francois Bozize, was making speeches referring to "mercenary-terrorists" and "foreigners" coming to "Islamize" the country. After riding to power on the back of an insurrection known as Seleka, the new dictator, Michel Djotodia, found it difficult to disengage.

Seleka, originally a political alliance, transformed into a militia of about 25,000 men, up to 90% of which came from Chad and Sudan and therefore constitute in the eyes of many a foreign invasion force. They do not speak the local language, and are Muslim in a nation that is roughly 80% Christian. They targeted churches for destruction and stirred up sectarian hatreds where none had existed previously. Indeed, the Sudanese contingent in particular were said to be members of the notorious janjaweed, who spread slavery and destruction in the Darfur region of Sudan and now were doing the same in the Central African Republic. After 10 months of abuses by the largely Muslim Seleka fighters, Christian self-defense anti-Balaka militias formed and began to attack both Seleka fighters and Muslim communities, creating a dangerous dynamic of reprisals where once there had been ethnic and religious tolerance.

The Central African Republic slipped into chaos after mostly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, toppled president Francois Bozize in March 2013. Months of looting and killing brought retaliation by Bozize allies and Christian militias known as anti-balaka. Amnesty International said more than 1,000 people had been killed in Bangui since violence flared anew in early December 2013. The death toll was significantly higher than what had been reported by relief organizations. Human Rights Watch issued a report saying the Christian militias had committed atrocities against Muslims in a cycle of violence that "threatens to spin out of control."

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.

On December 19, 2013 the prime minister of the Central African Republic announced plans to speed up a transition of power, as the country deals with deadly unrest. Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye said the presidential election that originally was set for 2015 will take place next year instead. He said a new national election authority will be sworn in by the end of the year. There was no immediate comment from the CAR's interim president, Michel Djotodia.

The African Union [AU] boosted the planned number of troops in an African-led support mission in CAR, known as MISCA, from about 3,600 to 6,000 troops. France said December 20, 2013 the European Union will consider a joint operation in January 2014 in the conflict-torn Central African Republic, where French and African forces were working to disarm militias and restore security.

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS / CEEAC) considered asking for an increased military presence in the country, where a peace-keeping mission of about 400 soldiers called Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) was already active. The force was one of five brigade-size elements that made up the AU's African Standby Force (ASF) - created to respond to crises on the African continent. The African Union (AU) was 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 rebelsto 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 would not intervene, and that its forces were 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 was 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."

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 backed up government troops. Gabon, Chad and Cameroon also sent in reinforcements. Gabriel Enteha Ebia, the Congo-Brazzaville ambassador in Bangui, said the rebels understood that they must stop their advance on Damara. If FOMAC troops were attacked, the ambassador said they would 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 would be held in 2014.

President Francois Bozize said he was willing to negotiate a unity government. However, rebels said he must go. 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.

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, Franois Boziz, 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 arrived to reinforce 250 French soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic.

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 said it 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."

Central African Republic - C.A.R. Map - The rebels said their fast-moving offensive was aimed at ousting President Francois Bozize. Rebels 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 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.

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.

By the end of 2013 the number of displaced people in Central African Republic edged close to one-million [that is, about a quarter of the country's entire population], as insecurity and fighting continued. Armed Muslim and Christian groups continued to battle in the capital and elsewhere, but were also targeting civilians. Humanitarian agencies were having a difficult time reaching those in need. On January 03, 2014 UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch said the number of displaced people has risen sharply in recent weeks. On 24th of December, we had 710,000 displaced in the country. Today that number has [risen] to over 935,000 people, who were displaced inside CAR, he said.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2017 18:15:24 ZULU