Central Africa: CAR On Agenda for Great Lakes Meeting, As Displaced From Violence Tops 200,000

Internally Displaced in CAR (file photo).

Security in the Central African Republic is top of the agenda for a meeting of International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on Friday, as the UN warned that 200,000 people have fled fighting since violence broke out over December's elections.

A new mediator for CAR is expected to be appointed at the ICGLR meeting, according to a report from RFI's Florence Morice. The new role was announced during a meeting in November, but not yet implemented.

The UN refugee agency said on Friday than more than 200,000 people have fled fighting, with 92,000 people crossing into Democratic Republic of Congo and more than 13,000 crossing into Cameroon, Chad and Republic of Congo.

Many people are facing "dire conditions" in CAR, according to Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesperson for UNHCR, with continuing attacks and road closures preventing humanitarian access.

Violence broke out in CAR ahead of December's elections with rebels mounting an offensive on the capital Bangui.

The vote was held despite the insecurity, and violence continued into January with attacks targeting the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA) and the declaration of a state of emergency by authorities in Bangui.

Regional differences

Ahead of the ICGLR meeting, President Touadéra is reportedly concerned about the choice of personalities for the mediator role, specifically about a mediator being from the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS).

It is understood that a mediator from Chad or Congo Brazzaville might not be trusted by Touadéra over worries they could be too close to the rebel opposition, according to diplomatic sources, cited by RFI.

However, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of the Congo, currently presides over ECCAS and is in charge of leading any consultations.

Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo, an Angolan, who leads the ECCAS secretariat, tried to break the deadlock, working to have Friday's meeting held by ICGLR. This somewhat sidesteps the problem, considering ICGLR is currently chaired by Angola.

Chad is not part of this organisation, but was invited due to the nature of the country's influence on the security of the sub-region.

Heads of state are expected to discuss the role of mediator, as well as the possibility of sending military reinforcements to the Central African Republic. Angola and DRC were called on specifically.

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