Central African Republic peace deal under strain
One of 14 armed groups that inked the Khartoum Agreement to quit government, while another abandons the deal
Bangui — Less than a month after it was signed, the Central African Republic’s (CAR) peace agreement was under strain on Monday after a militia group abandoned the deal and a second said it is quitting a new government designed to be the keystone of the accord.
The Democratic Front of the Central African People (FPDC), one of 14 armed groups that inked the so-called Khartoum Agreement, announced it is walking away in protest at a newly formed government. The FPDC “is resolved purely and simply to withdraw from the peace process”, it said.
The group, whose stronghold is in the northwest, protested that the new government formed on Sunday is “far from being inclusive”.
Just hours after the ministerial list was unveiled on Sunday, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC) said it is leaving the government. The FPRC did not specify whether it plans to remain part of the peace process but charged the authorities with “bad faith, amateurism and incompetence”.
The peace agreement was forged after negotiations in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum before being signed in Bangui on February 6. The deal brings together President Faustin-Archange Touadera and the leaders of the 14 armed groups who control most of the CAR.
It is the eighth attempt to bring peace to the CAR, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, since mainly Muslim rebels, the Seleka, ousted president Francois Bozize, a Christian, in 2013.
France, the former colonial ruler, intervened militarily under a UN mandate as fears grew of a Rwandan-style genocide. The Seleka were forced from power and in February 2016, Touadera, a former prime minister, was elected president.
Under the peace accord provisions, Touadera agreed to form an “inclusive” government. But in the team unveiled on Sunday, the ministers in sensitive key posts all kept their jobs, while six of the 14 armed groups obtained no post at all. One of those left out, the Movement of Central African Freedom Fighters for Justice (MLCJ), a small group in the north of the country, warned the authorities “to look again” at the list.
The armed groups had also demanded that the prime minister be chosen from their ranks. But the job was handed to Firmin Ngrebada, Touadera’s former cabinet director. “By playing at ‘Let’s take the same people and start over’, the president of the republic … has stifled all hope at birth,” the FPRC said.
The deal was prepared in 2017 by the AU and has the support of Bangui’s partners, notably France, with a 12,000-strong UN stabilisation mission, Minusca. But militia groups, often claiming to defend an ethnicity or religious group, still hold sway over four-fifths of the country.
Fighting, typically for control of natural resources, has left thousands dead and forced a quarter of the population of 4.5-million from their homes.
Other provisions in the agreement include the launch of a “Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission” within 90 days and the start of joint patrols by militia members and the security forces.
The agreement does not spell out any amnesty for militia leaders — something that had been a stumbling block in past agreements. However, the president may exercise a “discretionary right to issue pardons”.