CAR: the stalemate of the reconciliation process

After the civil war that erupted in 2013, and despite the French-led operation Sangaris and the African intervention (MISCA – later MINUSCA under UN authority) during December of the same year, the Central African Republic (CAR) seems to be in an impasse. As recent events have showed us, violence is still occasionally breaking out in some parts of the capital Bangui. In view of the next general elections, initially planned for October 18 but eventually postponed, where does that leave hope for a genuine reconciliation and a sustainable peace prospect?

Last October 15, “Seleka” and “anti-Balaka” terms showed that they do not belong only to the past. Indeed, new clashes were observed in the aftermath of a young Muslim death in the PK-5 district. This backslide into violence comes after the confrontations that have taken place at the end of September, leaving 61 people dead and more than 300 injured[1]. In both cases, it was the murder of a Muslim in this district that triggered the frictions.

The scale of violence has significantly decreased, compared to its level during 2013 and 2014. But there are still armed groups in the country that contribute to keep the security situation uncertain. Acting President Catherine Samba Panza, after having postponed the first round of elections, has recently led consultations with the “nation’s driving forces[2] with the aim of addressing security imperatives and defining new dates for the elections.

The President of the Transition has been criticized for some aspects of the transition process, whose she is in charge. For some observers, efforts have been insufficient with regard to disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) measures, although it was included in the road map initially conceived. Until now, voter census has affected only 30% of the population, the process being notably hampered by the flow of refugees and internally displaced persons. For their part, France and other countries put pressure on the government to hold elections soon. As a matter of fact, for strategic reasons, France wants to halve the military contingents deployed under operation Sangaris during October[3].

Beyond the legitimacy of these critics, it turned out that the transitional government had to engage in an enormous task. The lack of effective infrastructures and good governance for decades, substantial inequalities, unequal development between Bangui and border regions, extreme poverty, the lack of integration of some population’s parts, the flow of Sudanese refugees following the Darfur crisis and, among others, interference of neighbouring Chad, especially during the civil war, have contributed to create an explosive situation. Even with a strong political will, resolving these structural failures is not an easy task.

It seems now interesting to analyse the response the international community provided since the breaking out of the civil war. In the field of the DDR, several experts have warned on the biased approach with which international actors are operating: lack of reflection and of consideration of the country’s reality are unfortunately commonplace in crisis and conflicts monitoring. As the researcher Roland Marchal[4] said, “International actors have a highly manager-approach of aid but bypass the political dimension necessary to reconciliation, which only manifests itself, at a push, through a few microprojects. We have not considered the real stakes: the role played by Chadian and Sudanese people in the conflict, the economic status of the Muslims, the requirements for obtaining citizenship and identity documents…[5].

DDR measures are furthermore lacking financial assistance and, for now, many uncertainties remain. Transitional government is in an awkward position, subject to all kinds of pressure but facing donors’ reluctance to increase their aid amount. For many reasons, we can fear the resurgence of a violent conflict. A sense of impunity and frustration remains among the population, as well as fighters who have not been yet reintegrated in the society, thereby complicating the prospect of a genuine reconciliation and a sustainable peace.

[1] Le Monde, Centrafrique : nouveaux heurts à Bangui, 16/10/2015

[2] Ibid.

[3] TTU online, RCA : transition sous pression, 12/10/2015

[4] Research Fellow at the CNRS, his area of expertise focuses mainly on armed conflicts plaguing sub-Saharan Africa.

[5] Mediapart, En Centrafrique, le processus de réconciliation est dans l’impasse, 19/10/2015

Déborah Guidez

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