Potential Hot Spots: Peace Dies In The Dark

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August 9, 2008: The lights have gone out, literally. Over half a century of poor maintenance and neglect, the power grid of the Central African Republic has collapsed. The capital has gone dark. Two nearby hydroelectric power stations, which provide most of the nation's electricity, have failed from years of neglect. The government is calling on foreign aid donors to fly in generators for hospitals and other essential services. Generators that have been brought in previously have not been maintained, and wear out quickly. This is not an exceptional event, for colonial era infrastructure, from roads to power plants, are collapsing from decades of post-independence neglect. This causes more unrest, as factions battle for a dwindling supply of resources.

August 7, 2008: The Central African Republic's northern and north-eastern areas continue to be used by Chadian and Sudanese rebel groups as a route for moving personnel and equipment. That's one reason the UN labels the CAR's security situation as "fragile." There are others, including claims that CAR soldiers have joined some of the "northern bandits" in raiding villages. In February and March several Lords Resistance Army bands (LRA, the Ugandan rebels) moved into the CAR and raided several towns and villages in the country's southeast (including the towns of Obo and Bambouti). Five months later there is renewed concern that the CAR could become a "new front" in Uganda 's war with the LRA.

 

The CAR's internal political situation is another reason. In late June that looked a bit more hopeful. On June 26 the CAR government announced a "comprehensive peace agreement" had been reached with the two major insurgent groups,  The Popular Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD) and the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). Both the CAR government and France saw that deal as a major step forward. . The negotiations had been fostered by France and the United Nations.

 

On July 1 the CAR government even agreed to let former president Ange-Felix Patasse participate in the amnesty process. At the time there was talk of a national unity government following a "national dialog" (also called a reconciliation conference in one forum). Patasse has been living in exile in Togo . Now that may be on hold as well, for on August 2 the APRD announced that it was "leaving the peace process." On August 3 the UFDR followed it as did the Democratic Front for the Central African People (FDPC). Other opposition parties then quit. The big problem for the guerrilla groups has been the amnesty agreement the government has touted. The APRD is demanding a general amnesty and release of prisoners. Former rebels -who are not guilty of war crimes - may join the CAR Army. The APRD accuses the government of reneging on these key elements of the amnesty.

 

The June 26 comprehensive peace agreement isn't quite dead, but it's close. The UN does not want Chad and Sudan 's Sahel War to expand. Look for French and EU diplomats to try and bring the rebels and opposition parties back. That said, the APRD and the UFDR have been fighting an "intermittent insurgency" since 2003 and they can go right back to the bush and start shooting anytime.

 

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