Potential Hot Spots: CAR Wreck

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September 7, 2010: Spillover warfare and banditry continue to trouble the impoverished and chaos-ridden CAR (Central African Republic). The Ugandan Lord's resistance Army (LRA) still has bases in the southeastern CAR, despite operations by Ugandan special forces to root them out. Now the country faces the threat of a collapsing peace agreement and a renewed bout of rebel activity.

The CAR is unstable to beigin with, but the fact it is caught between the Congo's many wars and Sudan's Darfur war adds to the turmoil. The CAR armed forces contains  around 5,000 troops. The bulk of its army is based in the national capital, Bangui, which is located in the south. The army (Central African Armed Forces, or FACA) has a few scattered detachments around the country; occasionally it beefs up forces and launches punitive raids, mostly tackling insurgents and bandits in the north. In late November 2009 an armed group belonging to the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) shot it out with the FACA up north. There were skirmishes but at least one major battle, in the town of Quartier Sultan (northern CAR, about 700 kilometers north of the national capital, Bangui). The CPJP then announced it had liberated the capital of Bamingui-Bangoran province, Ndele (which is near Quartier Sultan). At least 15 government soldiers were killed in the battle.

In January 2010 the government reported the death of Charles Massi a former defense minister who became the leader of the CPJP's political wing. Massi was arrested in Chad in 2009 and handed over to the CAR. Opponents of the regime of President Francois Bozize accused the government of capturing Massi and torturing him to death. The government denied it.

The government regards the CPJP as a threat. The CPJP refused to join the peace process, the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) of June 2008. The CPA brought several other rebel groups into the political arena, among them long time CAR rebel outfits, the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of the Republic and of Democracy (APRD) and the Union of Democratic Forces (UFDR). These two groups agreed to a disarmament and demobilization process. Not the CPJP.

In Spring 2010 President François Bozize twice postponed presidential and national assembly elections. Parliament then gave Bozize permission to remain president past the end of his term, which was supposed to end in June of this year. In August the elections were scheduled for January 2011. The opposition has formed a political umbrella organization Forces of Change Collective and, like so many other African nations, the opposition is already predicting there will be massive vote fraud and election rigging. The big concern is that the CPA will unravel and former APRD and UFDR fighters will return to the bush. Two other rebel factions (which at one time claimed they had joined the peace process) the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC) and the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) have accused the government of bad faith and threatened to take up arms. The MLCJ was once a faction of the UFDR. In July, 2010 the government accused the MLCJ of launching an attack on a small FACA garrison in the town of Birao (northeast CAR, near Sudan border). But that is not for certain. The CPJP claimed it launched the attack. Now the FACA insists it is sure the MLCJ was the perpetrator but for an odd reason: the MLCJ wants to participate in the demobilization process and claims it is being denied the opportunity. That may not be as far out as it seems. Some disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs in Africa provide former guerrillas and militiamen with some training, farm implements, and a little cash. For what it is worth, the UN has a small peacekeeping and training force in Birao, MINURCAT. It has around 300 soldiers.

Then there is the LRA, one of central Africa's most vicious organizations (and there are many of those). An incident on June 10 of this year illustrates the LRA problem. CAR police reported that the LRA kidnapped 30 people from the village of Fode (near Bangassou). The LRA also plundered the village. The CAR government cannot provide protection for the villages. This is why it turns a blind eye to Ugandan special forces troops which track and sometimes attack LRA groups in the CAR.

 

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