21 June 2017

Central African Republic: Peace Deal in Doubt As Dozens Die in Central African Republic

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

Close to 50 people have been killed after fresh fighting broke out in a small town in the Central African Republic. On Monday, the government signed its latest peace deal with 13 armed groups.

Eyewitnesses described seeing dozens of bodies lying in the streets of Bria, a town that lies in the center of the violence-ravaged country, after clashes broke out at dawn on Tuesday. The Reuters news agency put the death toll at 50, citing the town's mayor.

"I can say there are around 50 dead. There are 42 bodies that were taken to the hospital. There are also bodies in the neighborhoods that have not been picked up yet," Mayor Maurice Belikoussou said.

Agence France-Presse quoted a humanitarian source as saying that more than 40 people were killed. Both agencies said dozens more were injured.

No escape from violence

The clashes broke out near a camp housing people who had been forced to flee previous bouts of violence, according to the country's UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA.

The latest violence, between mostly-Muslim rebels and Christian anti-balaka fighters, came a day after the government of the Central African Republic signed a peace deal with 13 of 14 rival armed groups, following five days of negotiations in Rome.

The deal, brokered by a Roman Catholic peace group, called for an immediate ceasefire following more than five years of conflict, which began after a disputed election in 2011.

Monday's peace deal also granted political representation to each faction in exchange for an end to attacks and blockades.

Group leader killed

One of the groups, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) admitted it had taken part in Tuesday's fighting.

"We signed the agreement, but we have to defend ourselves - we can't allow an attack to happen without reacting," said FPRC spokesman Djamil Babanani.

The latest fighting followed the killing of FPRC leader Hamad Issa in Bria on Saturday, several sources told AFP.

Last month, an upsurge in clashes between the rival factions left around 300 people dead, hundreds more wounded, and more than 10,000 others displaced.

Since 2013, thousands have died and a fifth of Central Africans have fled their homes after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Monday's peace deal is just one of a series of agreements aimed at putting an end to the conflict. But despite being lauded by the office of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, many of his political opponents doubt whether the ceasefire will hold.

UN peacekeeping missions in Africa

DR Congo: UN's largest mission

Since 1999, the UN has been trying to pacify the eastern region of the DR Congo. The mission known as MONUSCO has nearly 20,000 soldiers and an annual budget of $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros). Despite being the largest and most expensive mission of the United Nations, violence in the country continues.

Darfur: Powerless against violence

UNAMID is a joint mission of the African Union and the UN in Sudan's volatile Darfur region. Observers consider the mission a failure. "The UN Security Council should work harder

Sudan: Turning a blind eye to fighting?

Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, nearly 4 million people have been displaced according to the UN. Some of them are being sheltered in UN compounds. But when clashes between government forces and rebels broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, the blue helmets failed to effectively intervene. Later, the Kenyan UNMISS commander was sacked by former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Mali: The most dangerous UN mission in the world

UN peacekeepers in Mali are monitoring compliance with the peace agreement between the government and an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels. But Islamist terrorist groups such as AQIM continue to carry out attacks making MINUSMA one of the UN's most dangerous military intervention in the world. Germany has deployed more than 700 soldiers as well as helicopters.

CAR: Sexual abuse scandals making headlines

MINUSCA, the UN's mission in Central Africa Republic has not helped to improve the image of the United Nations in Africa. French troops have been accused of sexually abusing children by the Code Blue Campaign. Three years on, victims haven't got any help from the UN. Since 2014, 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers have been deployed. Violence in the country has receded but tensions remain.

Western Sahara: Hope for lasting peace

The UN mission in the Westsahara known as MINURSO has been active since 1991. MINURSO is there to monitor the armistice between Morocco and the rebels of the "Frente Polisario" who are fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. In 2016, Morocco which has occupied this territory since 1976, dismissed 84 MINURSO staff after being angered by a statement from the UN Secretary-General.

Ivory Coast: Peaceful end of a mission

The UN mission in Ivory Coast fulfilled its objectives on June 30, 2016 after 14 years. Since 2016, the troops have been gradually withdrawn. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this was a "turning point for the United Nations and the Ivory Coast." But only after the full withdrawal will it be clearly known whether or not the mission was successful on a long-term basis.

Liberia: Mission accomplished

The UN deployment in Liberia is - as in neighboring Ivory Coast - will soon be history. The soldiers are leaving by mid-2017. Since the end of the 14-year civil war, UNMIL has ensured stability in Liberia and helped build a functioning state. Liberia's government now wants to provide security for itself. The country is still struggling with the consequences of a devastating Ebola epidemic.

Sudan: Ethiopians as peace promoters?

The UNISFA soldiers are patrolling the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both claim to be rightful owners of this territory located between the two countries. More than 4,000 blue helmets from Ethiopia are deployed. Ethiopia is the world's second largest peace-keeping contributor. At the same time, the Ethiopian army is accused of human rights violations back home.

Somalia: Future model AU mission?

UN peacekeepers in Somalia are fighting under the leadership of the African Union in a mission known as AMISOM. The soldiers are in the Horn of African country to battle the al-Shabaab Islamists and bring stability to the war-torn nation. Ethiopia, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria have all contributed their troops for AMISOM.

Author: Martina Schwikowski

mm/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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