19 May 2017

Africa: Regional MPs Warn of Violence in Central African Republic

Photo: The Observer
Uganda People's Defence Force soldiers in Central African Republic (file photo).

Legislators from the Great Lakes region have warned that the Central African Republic (CAR) could plunge back into chaos following last month's withdrawal of the UPDF and the American special forces troops.

The MPs, under the auspices of the Forum for Parliaments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (FP-ICGLR) travelled to CAR from May 2 and 4 to assess the security situation there.

The delegation was led by Uganda's Arinatiwe Rwakajara, a Workers MP, who is also the president of FP-ICGLR's committee on peace and security. Rwakajara told The Observer last week that while many parts of CAR are relatively peaceful, the situation is still volatile in some areas.

"There is a big vacuum that was left by the UPDF. When you talk to some people, they still have fear that any time they will be attacked. UPDF gave them assurance of security and in some cases, offered food and medicine," he said.

He noted there are more than 14 rebel groups roaming in CAR while the national army, which has about 2,000 soldiers, is still weak and ill-trained.

"They have no army to speak of. That is why they want us to come back and help them train their army and to contain the situation," Rwakajara said.

Rwakajara's delegation included Simon Bizimungu, an MP from Burundi; Ernest Hamuli, MP from DR Congo and Prosper Higiro, the secretary general of FP-ICGLR.

The UPDF withdrew from CAR in April this year after seven years in the country. They had gone to the country to hunt for Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

In a statement released about the withdrawal, the UPDF said the mission had been a success because the LRA had been decimated to an extent that it posed no military threat to Uganda.

However, the UPDF also left open the possibility that it could rejoin future efforts to hunt Kony. During their tour of Bangui, the capital of CAR, Rwakajara's group met with various political actors in the country.

He said they discovered that normal life had resumed in areas within a radius of five kilometers from the city and that some reconstruction work was underway.

However, in the eastern and northern parts of the country, the group noted that the security situation was still precarious due to incidents of violence between armed groups.


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