AFRICANGLOBE – In the wake of agreements reached today to end a rebellion in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations envoy for the country today said that the international community now needs to engage more forcefully, both diplomatically and financially, to pull the CAR from the brink.
“The security is fundamental to peace and development; the Central African Republic requires a functional and effective army and security forces, government has to be present in all parts of the CAR,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA), Margaret Vogt, told a meeting of the world body’s Security Council.
“We are hopeful that the agreements that were signed today in Libreville will contain the immediate flair-up and will calm the situation in the CAR,” Ms. Vogt said. “However, failure to go further to discuss the reasons for the lack of implementation of previous agreements and to correct these may lead to another melt down, a few years down the line again, as a result of lost expectations and frustration.”
The CAR has a history of political instability and recurring armed conflict. State authority is weak in many parts of the country. Ethnic tensions in the north, rebel activity and the presence of members of the armed Ugandan group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have added to insecurity and instability in Central African Republic, which has caused significant internal displacement.
Most recently, the country has been dealing with the impact of armed rebel groups which had threatened to march on the capital.
Following attacks on several towns in the country’s north-east, an alliance of rebel groups – made up of the Convention Patriotique pour le Salut du Kodro, the Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix Centrafrique, the Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement and the Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain and known, collectively, as ‘Séléka’ – had been advancing on the capital, Bangui, in late December before agreeing to start peace talks this past week in the Gabonese capital of Libreville, under the auspices of the regional group known as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Ms. Vogt was briefing the Council via video-teleconference from Libreville, where she has been in close dialogue with the key parties and provided support to the negotiations.
“The Séléka coalition took control of a number of towns without much resistance from the national army. The failure of the national army to repel this aggression is indicative of the depth of decay within the armed forces,” Ms. Vogt said. “The army had lost cohesion and the will to fight; many of the soldiers simply dropped their weapons and melted into the bush. Within a few weeks almost half of the prefectures in the territory had come under rebel control.”
Central African Republic Troubled
Meeting in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena in mid-December, regional leaders agreed to deploy troops to help bolster the Central African Republic’s military and provide protection. However, with the rebels only hours away from Bangui, the United Nations and other international bodies temporarily re-located staff members due to security concerns.
Both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council had condemned the rebels’ attacks and called on them to halt hostilities. They also called on both the Government and the rebels to resolve the current crisis through dialogue, and to abide by the 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed by the Government and the three main rebel groups and which helped bring an end to existing conflicts inside the Central AfricanRepublic.
Amidst the developments in December, Ms. Vogt embarked on an intensive diplomatic effort, together with the African Union, to engage with the parties, the Government, the rebel groups and political parties and civil society members.
“I also travelled to Brazzaville on two occasions, to consult with President Sassou Nguessou on how he wanted to structure the peace talks in Libreville. I offered to the President the full technical support of the UN as well as our political advice,” the UN envoy told the Council members, noting that she also worked with staff from the UN Standby Mediation Team, which helped to structure mediation efforts, advised on the process, as well as helped draft a declaration of principles, a draft ceasefire agreement and other analytical documents.
The peace talks led to three agreements being signed: one was a declaration of principles to resolve the political and security crisis, another was a ceasefire agreement, and the last was an agreement on the political-security situation, with the latter defining the power-sharing arrangements and the period of political transition in the Central African Republic.
In her remarks to the Council, Ms. Vogt summarized the agreements’ key points as: President Bozizé remains in power; a Prime Minister from the opposition, with full executive power, is to be appointed; a Government of National Unity with representatives of all stakeholders that took part in the talks is to be established; a bill on the new Electoral Code and the National Authority for Elections will be adopted before the National Assembly is dissolved; legislative elections will be organized within 12 months; a new follow-up mechanism is to be established to ensure full implementation of the provisions of the agreement reached.
Considering the reasons behind the rebellion, the UN envoy made note of reports of dissension within the armed forces and of deep division among the political leadership, partly engendered by rumours that the President planned to change the constitution to remain in power beyond the end of his constitutional mandate, in 2016.
“The rise of active rebellion may not be unconnected to the frustration of some who had nursed succession ambitions,” she said, while also noting that attempts at disarming the armed groups in such a vast, sparsely populated area can “only be successful through a regional approach, involving the neighbours of the Central African Republic.”