The Central African Republic (CAR) has seen a growing level of violence in the face of the Khartoum Peace Agreement predominantly between the Christian Anti-Balaka and the Muslim based Seleka. The agreement signed in February of this year by both the government and 14 militia groups was aimed at ending the conflict in the region which had been escalating since 2012. Findings from a recent report submitted to the African Union and the United Nations (UN) have found that peace in the region is fragile and that dozens of violations continue to be reported even after the implementation of the peace agreement.
As conveyed in The East African, the report has suggested that “there is little evidence to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in the behaviour of combatants or that leaders have made efforts to identify and discipline those responsible.”
The Khartoum Agreement when first brokered had been lauded to be the most serious bid at brokering peace since the crisis had begun. At the time the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the stakeholders for the successful peace talks and encouraged “all stakeholders to live up to their commitments in the implementation period.” He also called upon “neighbouring countries, regional organizations and all international partners to support the courageous steps that Central Africans have made to bring lasting peace and stability in their country.”
The CAR government signed the peace agreement with armed groups which control approximately 80% of the country. Therefore, as part of the agreement, it has involved the integration of group fighters into new army units as well as militia leaders being a part of the government. One example is Sidiki Abbas the leader of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R), a group who earlier this year was responsible for the massacre of 46 civilians in the town of Paoua. Now Abbas is an advisor to the CAR government. Consequently, the provision to allow militia leaders to advise the government has allowed for perpetrators to walk free from their crimes. Rather than face any judicial system, they have been elevated to key government roles, making it difficult for victims of crimes to move forward and find peace. Similarly, the message it spreads to the region is that the creation of violence can be a path to seats of power. What is unfortunate is that without these compromises the chance of peace is little to none, as Abbas has threatened to withdraw from the peace deal if prosecutors are to make a case against him. This is not the first time the CAR has allowed for warlords to go unpunished. Many of the perpetrators of war crimes throughout the Bush War of the early 2000s had been granted blanket amnesty. According to political analysts, as reported by Deutsche Welle, this amnesty is what allowed for the creation of the Seleka and thereby creating the situation facing the CAR today.
Peace within the CAR is not attainable without the influence of warlords and now that the precedent has been set parameters need to be made in order for these actors to have a constructive influence. Consequently, while some concessions to armed groups and their leaders are necessary for peace, the requirement for amnesty should only be given to individuals and groups who are actively reducing violence and taking the necessary steps towards disarmament.
Tensions in the CAR came to an escalation after March 2013 when the Seleka overran the capital of Bangui and ousted then President Francois Bozize, a Christian, and instead installed Michel Djotodia, who later resigned. Since then, violence has erupted as militia groups have struggled for control over local economies. Impediments to peace continue as civilians and humanitarian workers are at constant risk of murders, rape and kidnapping. Militia groups even continue to source war material from the borders of Chad and Sudan, placing their actions into direct conflict of the restrictions outlined in the peace agreement as well as by an embargo imposed by the countries. Therefore, while outright war may have ceased, violence and the need for the government to make a strong commitment to the peace agreement remains.
The process of peacemaking is difficult and not one that can be made overnight. It involves an array of actors and voices and needs to constantly address the ever-changing socio-politico nature of the country. For peace to prevail in the CAR, processes need to be reinforced and pressure to be placed on the militia groups and their leaders to disarm and demonstrate their commitment to the region and the people within it.