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Central African Republic - C.A.R. - 2014

Central African Republic’s interim president, Michel Djotodia, resigned 10 January 2014 at the close of a two-day summit of regional leaders in Chad. The president's resignation came after an extraordinary call Thursday by the summit for the entire transitional parliament in Bangui to board a plane and fly to N'djamena. When they arrived they were summoned to intensive talks, which carried on until nearly 4 am. The talks were aimed at persuading the parliament, which included Djotodia supporters as well as opponents, to agree that he should step aside.

Djotodia, as well as the Prime Minister Nicholas Tiangaye had shown their limitations when it came to managing the transition, The two now former leaders had shown serious incompetence and a lack of capacity to handle the crisis and the transition successfully. Central African Republic's transitional parliament would choose another interim president to serve through national elections, which could possibly be held later in 2014. There were fears the Seleka rebels might try to force a breakaway or secession in northern parts of the country, where there is oil.

Catherine Samba-Panza, was elected 20 January 2014 interim president by members of the country’s transitional parliament. She represents a break with the past in more ways than one. Her main opponent was Desire Kolingba, the son of former president Andre Kolingba. That were 75 votes for Samba- Panza and 53 for Desire Kolingba. Samba-Panza was due to serve until national elections can be organized. The U.S. government has called for elections to be held by February 2015.

The African Union deployed about 5,000 peacekeepers to the country, assisted by a force of 1,600 from France. Paris announced 14 February 2014 it would temporarily increase its force by an additional 400 troops and police. The European Union, which had also pledged to send at least 500 troops to protect civilians in the CAR, had commitments for closer to 1,000 troops. It was becoming more likely that the United Nations would take over the African-led mission in the coming months, turning it into a full-fledged UN peacekeeping force. That would provide the troops with stable financing and more equipment, among other benefits.

The Council of the European Union announced the immediate launch of a military operation in the Central African Republic to help “achieve a safe and a secure environment” amid the escalating crisis, said the council’s order of 01 April 2014. European Union Force RCA, led by the French Major-General Philippe Ponties, will compromise up to 1,000 troops. They are to provide “temporary support in achieving a safe and secure environment in the area, with a view to handing over to a UN peacekeeping operation or to African partners.” The HQ and the troops will be located in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic and its largest city. The operational center will be located in Larissa, Greece. The troops are to be deployed rapidly to ensure "the immediate effect" of the operation. The mission is tasked with “protecting the populations most at risk and to the creation of the conditions for providing humanitarian aid.”

Many people in the Central African Republic welcomed Chad's 04 April 2014 decision to withdraw its troops from the African Union peacekeeping force in the country. Chad's involvement in the crisis had simply grown too controversial. Chadian troops kept being implicated in too many incidents hurting civilians and they were accused of abuses in the interior of the country. They were always accused of being pro-Muslim and that caused problems. In Bangui, it was not uncommon to hear people use the terms Chadian, Muslim and Seleka interchangeably. The announcement came amid public outrage after Chadian forces opened fire in Bangui's PK12 neighborhood on March 29. UN human rights investigators said that at least 30 people were killed and more than 300 injured. Chad's military was seen as one of the most capable in Africa. Chad contributed about 850 of the 6,000 soldiers in the AU peacekeeping force, known as MISCA.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed April 10, 2014 to authorize a nearly 12,000 strong UN peacekeeping force for the violence-plagued Central African Republic. The force, known by the acronym MINUSCA, will take over on September 15 from the 6,000-strong African-led mission currently on the ground. It would have 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police. The Africans and about 2,000 French forces had been trying to restore calm in the Central African Republic after inter-communal fighting erupted in December 2013. The African troops would continue their military activities in the lead-up to the official transfer date in September. After being vetted, many of those troops will also be "re-hatted" with the blue helmet of UN peacekeepers and join the new mission.

International troops are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Some question whether those troops could fight off a separatist attempt by armed groups in the northeast. Within Seleka there is a strong majority that wants partition. They feel they are no longer accepted, that the Ndjamena accords have not been applied and so there is no sharing of power. The Muslim population is also being persecuted. So there are people, in all legitimacy, calling for partition. But there are others who are against.

A peace agreement between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and the largely Christian anti-Balaka militia was signed in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville on 23 July 2014. But Seleka rebels rejected a ceasefire deal and demanded the country be partitioned between Muslims and Christians. In an interview with the BBC's Andrew Harding, Seleka military chief Joseph Zoundeiko said his forces would ignore the ceasefire agreed. Zoundeiko called for the entire country to be split in two, arguing that CAR as a nation state was finished.

Mahamat Kamoun, a former special adviser to interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, was appointed prime minister by presidential decree on 10 August 2014. He is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the CAR since it gained independence from France in 1960. He was director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize. Kamoun would lead a transitional government that is seeking to implement a cease-fire signed in July after a year of sectarian violence.

A United Nations peacekeeping force deployed 15 September 2014 in the Central African Republic, which has been devastated by more than two years of sectarian violence and civil war. Many hoped the UN troops would have a strong impact on economic development of this poor nation. The Security Council authorized the force, known as MINUSCA, to take all necessary means to carry out its mandate in the CAR. Only 7,500 of the approximately 12,000 men werenewly deployed. Most of the 6,000 African Union troops already in the CAR joined the new UN mission. For many in Bangui this means that the UN troops will not hesitate to use force against armed groups. CAR government spokesperson Gaston Mackouzangba said the arrival of well-equipped UN troops will be a deterrent for armed groups. “When you have 12,000 armed people, with better equipment than that of the CAR, that should be enough dissuade,” says Mackouzangba.

When Catherine Samba-Panza took the oath of office as President in January 2014, the International Crisis Group called CAR a phantom state... that it was not a even a fragile state anymore, but a phantom one, even a fictive one. A year later, some improvement has been made, but a lot of challenges remain. Security has improved, notably thanks to the deployment of international forces. Yet the situation remained very fragile with regular outbreaks of violence.

While violence occasionally flared, order was generally returned under interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who was backed by a UN peacekeeping force.



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