Tag Archives: CAR rebels

Central Africa Republic – rebels kill 32 in Bakala

Reuters

Rebels in Central African Republic killed at least 32 civilians after clashes with a rival armed group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, a sign of the fighters’ growing boldness amid limited state authority.

Despite successful elections last year that were seen as a step toward reconciliation after years of civil conflict, the government and a 13,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission have struggled to contain killing sprees by rebel groups.

The Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) rebels carried out the killings on Dec. 12 in the town of Bakala, where they had been fighting the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPRC), HRW said in a statement.

The UPC lured 25 of the civilians to a local school where it shot them after killing seven others earlier the same day, HRW said. At least 29 other civilians have been killed in fighting around Bakala since late November, it added.

“They certainly feel emboldened to commit worse and worse crimes,” said HRW researcher Lewis Mudge of the rebels in an interview, adding the civilians were likely targeted because they were thought to be allied with rival groups.

Both the FPRC and UPC are former members of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance that united to oust then-President Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

But the two groups have since fallen out over competition for territory and control of tax revenues. The Muslim FPRC are now allied with the Christian anti-balaka, an indication of the waning role of ideology in the conflict.

On Wednesday, the government appointed a prosecutor to a U.N.-backed special criminal court created to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity, a potential first step toward bringing rebel leaders to justice.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Aaron Ross and Toby Chopra)

Cameroonian hostages released after being held by Central African Republic rebels

Reuters

Eleven hostages from Cameroon were freed on Sunday following 16 months of captivity, after having been abducted by a militia group from the Central African Republic, a statement from the Cameroonian presidency said.

The hostages included a local mayor, Mama Abakai, and 12 others, but two died in captivity, said President Paul Biya in the statement, adding that the crime would not go unpunished.

It was not clear which militia abducted them or how they were freed.

They were kidnapped in March 2015 by heavily armed men while returning from a funeral in Cameroon’s northern Gbabio district, and taken over the nearby border to the Central African Republic.

“The Cameroonian hostages were freed today and they are en route to Yaounde,” Governor Grégoire Mvono told Reuters.

An upsurge of violence in the Central African Republic that began in 2013 has caused thousands to flee across the border and increased insecurity in parts of Cameroon.

Islamist militant group Boko Haram has also staged numerous cross-border attacks from Nigeria into Cameroon’s Far North Region.

(Reporting by Josiane Koaugheu; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

Suspected Central African Republuc rebels kill villagers un Cameroon

Reuters

World Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:59pm BST

Suspected Central African Republic rebels kill three in Cameroon raid

(Reuters) – A suspected group of armed rebels from the Central African Republic killed three people in a village in neighbouring Cameroon and kidnapped seven others, the latest in a spate of cross-border attacks, Cameroon state radio said on Friday.

Residents in Mbeng village said the attack took place early on Thursday when masked assailants entered the village. They shot three women and took away five others. The same group is suspected to have seized two other people the next day.

Armed bands from the Central African Republic have carried out raids across the border since their country descended into chaos in March 2013 when the Seleka rebel group seized power. A transitional government is now in place but attacks continue, prompting Cameroon to deploy special forces on the border.

In March, 15 people including a mayor and local government officials were kidnapped in a similar attack.

(Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Central African Republic rebel leader rejects deal

BBC
Central African Republic rebel chief rejects ceasefire

Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic have rejected a ceasefire deal and demanded the country be partitioned between Muslims and Christians.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Harding, Seleka military chief Joseph Zoundeiko said his forces would ignore the ceasefire agreed on Thursday.

He said the deal had been negotiated without proper input from the military wing of the former Seleka alliance.

Almost a quarter of the 4.6 million population have fled their homes.

The peace agreement between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and the largely Christian anti-Balaka militia was signed in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville.

Muslims have been forced to flee the capital city and most of the west of the country, in what rights groups described as ethnic cleansing.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes such as torture and unlawful killing.

‘Immediate partition’
But Maj-Gen Zoundeiko has now called for the entire country to be split in two, arguing that the Central African Republic as a nation state was finished.

Sectarian fighting has forced much of the Muslim population – and Seleka fighters – to flee to the north or to neighbouring countries

A recent study by the medical aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres showed “catastrophic levels of mortality” among some Muslim communities because of targeted violence
He called for an immediate partition between the Christian south and Muslim north.

But our correspondent says that political leaders from both sides insist that reconciliation remains possible and desirable despite months of violence.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have already fled from the south – and daily attacks continue in the countryside.

Maj-Gen Zoundeiko blamed “our Christian brothers” for making peace impossible. He declined to say exactly how the country should be divided.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28487894

Is the Central African republic an artificial state? Keith Somerville

E-International Relations

The Central African Republic – An Artificial State

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Apart from the sensationalist coverage of the coronation of President Jean Bokassa as Emperor of the renamed Central African Empire in December 1977, and then the sensational reporting of his trial (which included allegations of cannibalism), the Central African Republic is one of the least known of Africa’s states. However, it is also one of the most fragile and most dependent on external forces, notably France. In the early months of 2014 it gained international notoriety again with reports of attempted genocide, and ethnic cleansing in fighting between rival political forces and communities. These events have led to French and African Union intervention and a breakdown of law and order.

On 12 February 2014, the interim President of the Central African Republic (CAR), Catherine Samba-Panza, said she would “go to war” with Christian militias carrying out revenge attacks against Muslims.  The attacks were the latest episode of communal violence since the Seleka rebel alliance overthrew President Francois Bozize in March 2013.  Human Rights Watch has warned that the “minority Muslim population in the Central African Republic is being targeted in a relentless wave of coordinated violence that is forcing entire communities to leave the country”.  It urged the CAR government as well as French and African Union peacekeepers to take urgent steps to protect the remaining Muslim population from revenge attacks by predominantly Christian militias and allied residents. Two days later, France opted to increase its peacekeeping force in the CAR by 400 men to 2,000, who are supplementing more than 6,000 African Union peacekeepers.

The breakdown of law and order, the disintegration of the CAR army and the impotence of African Union and French peacekeeping troops meant that Muslims (who were being targeted because of the perception that they were responsible for the killings, rapes and looting carried out by the  predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels after they seized power) were vulnerable and were fleeing in large numbers.  But how did the seizure of power by Seleka create a level of hatred between Christian and Muslim communities that had not been apparent before?

The CAR: An Artificial Creation

The boundaries of what is today the CAR “were the outcomes of hazardous explorations, diplomatic agreements and the whims of colonial administrators,” according to a former senior French colonial official who served there; It is almost a caricature of a post-colonial state which is a geographical expression rather than a nation with a sense of shared identity or purpose.[1]  It was a source of earnings for the French colonial system through the export of gold, diamonds, cotton, coffee and timber. Apart from the small export-led sectors of the mining and agricultural economy, CAR was left undeveloped by colonialism. The republic, which became independent in 1960, was poor, had little infrastructure and no great sense of national identity among the eight major and 54 smaller ethnic groups which inhabited it. It was situated in a part of Central Africa that was to be wracked by conflict arising out of the artificial nature of the post-colonial states and competition between the new political elites.

Two of its five neighbours – Chad and Sudan – were to experience almost continuous warfare from the 1960s through into the new millennium.  The porous borders and shifting patterns of warfare in the central African region, as well as the way that colonial borders had split communities between states (with ethnic groups in border areas of the CAR having close links with closely related populations in South Sudan, Darfur, Chad and the Congo) meant that the republic was ineluctably drawn into these conflicts and even ended up being the refuge for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when it was forced out of Uganda and South Sudan.

External Interference

The CAR’s position within this unstable region with external forces (Sudan, Libya, Chad and France) interfering in it or seeking to use its territory as a base for troops, meant that conflicts spilled over into the republic. Another consequence of the regional situation was that relations developed over time between warring factions in Chad or Darfur and CAR communities that had ethnic or linguistic links with them, particularly those in marginalized rural areas remote from the capital, Bangui, and from the more prosperous main export-dominated agricultural areas. This has led to accusations that Muslim groups in the CAR are foreigners or working for foreign, most recently Chadian, interests. France has consistently intervened in CAR politics since independence. It handed over power to a chosen CAR nationalist, David Dacko, who was initially seen as an ally who would allow France to maintain a military presence and continue to exploit economic resources through preferential access to mining and other resources.. French military forces (used both to intervene in CAR politics but also in neighbouring states such as Chad) stayed after independence and remained there until 1997 – they are back now in the guise of a peacekeeping force.  The desire, emerging from its wider strategies in West and Central Africa, to maintain influence over government in Bangui led to the French assisting or even organizing coups in 1965, 1979 and 1981.[2] France even bankrolled the coronation of the CAR dictator, Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

In opposition to the French presence, Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi sought closer relations with Bokassa as his excesses drove away even the French, who plotted to overthrow and replace him with David Dacko.  At the time of his ouster in September 1979, Bokassa had been in Libya negotiating a deal for Libya to use military bases in the CAR near the border with Chad.  The replacement of Bokassa did not end Libyan involvement, mainly because the CAR bordered Chad, where France and Libya were on opposite sides in the decades old war. Both Libya and France saw the CAR as a pivotal state, strategically linking the Sahel with the rest of Africa, as well as a source of potentially valuable or strategic resources – diamonds, gold and uranium.  In the new millennium, Chad under Idriss Deby became an increasingly influential power in the region and it, too, saw the CAR as both a key border state influence over which could bolster Deby’s control by denying opposing Chadian factions use of its territory. Deby became increasingly interested in gaining concessions to mine for uranium in CAR – Chad’s involvement in supporting a series of CAR leaders (including Bozize and then the Seleka alliance) were linked with Deby’s regional ambitions and attempts to get concessions for uranium exploitation.

Factional Conflicts and Rebel Risings

The overthrow of Bokassa in 1979 did not lead to a less conflictual style of politics in the CAR.  Military and political leaders like General Andre Kolingba and Ange-Felix Patasse would compete both in elections, after the return to civilian rule in 1993, and militarily, as when Kolingba attempted a coup. Patasse then had to fight rebels from within the army who supported Kolingba and General Francois Bozize, a former chief of staff.  External involvement in the factional conflicts was substantial with Libyan, Chadian and Congolese rebel forces all fighting for Patassé. When Bozize seized power, Chad swapped sides and backed him while developing ties with rebel groups from the Muslim communities along the unpoliced borders with Darfur and Chad.  Muslims make up about 15% of the CAR population and have a strong role in the trading sector of the economy and in livestock production.  In the most recent conflict Muslim groups came together in the Seleka rebel alliance, after Bozize was accused by rebel leaders of reneging on a peace deal reached with them.  Chad again swapped sides. In late 2012, Seleka forces now supported by Chadian fighters funded by Deby, overran much of the north and centre of the country. In March 2013 they took Bangui.  Seleka/Chadian forces clashed with South African troops who had been sent by President Zuma to support Bozize as part of a deal that would involve South African companies gaining access to uranium and other mineral concessions.  The South Africans suffered a humiliating defeat, with 13 soldiers killed. Bozize fled and Seleka took over.  But Seleka was not an organized force with a clear command structure or the experience to run the government. It was a movement fighting to redress grievances of the people from a particular region and the anger of the rebels over Bozize’s bad faith.  The result was that the seizure of power led to a vacuum in a divided and unstable country vulnerable to external intervention.

Plunder Trumps Political Power

The new head of state, Michael Djotodia, was nominally a Seleka leader but had little control over the bulk of the Seleka forces or the Chadians who had backed them. What followed was looting, killing and rape on a massive scale, as rebels sought to profit from their seizure of power at the expense of civilians. Many of the victims were Christians and media reports alleged, with the French government weighing to support this interpretation, that a Muslim movement was carrying out sectarian genocide. It was not. It was a previously marginalized and diverse rebel coalition seizing its chance of exploiting the prerogatives of military power.  Intervention by an African Union military force (including, ironically, a large contingent of Chadians) and then French forces failed to stabilize the situation and Christian communities fearing attack formed their own militias, known as the anti-balaka.  They fought back against the Seleka forces but began, with incitement by community leaders, to attack Muslims in general.  Bangui has a large Muslim population, including traders from Chad, Sudan and Cameroon. These became targets as the anti-Seleka discourse of the militias became anti-Muslim and anti-foreigner, too.

The forced resignation of Djotodia and his replacement by a new interim president, Samba-Panza, backed by the AU, France and regional did not end the violence but appeared to give the green light to the anti-balaka to launch more concerted attacks against Muslims. This led to revenge attacks and to the fear expressed by human rights groups of the sectarian “cleansing” of Muslims.  The effects of the factional fighting and ambitions of power-hungry politicians and rebel leaders has engendered violence between communities previously unknown in the CAR. It was not a country with a strong national identity but it did not experience sectarian violence and was not divided sharply along religious lines.

The causes of the conflict are rooted in the greed and selfish ambition of CAR political and military leaders, abetted by the interference and self-interest of France, Libya and Chad and compounded by the problem of developing national identity in an artificially-created state in which power-sharing, nation-building and inclusiveness have been the lowest priorities for a succession of regimes and their backers.    The horror, confusion and clutching at all-encompassing explanations like sectarian hatred  is “caused by inadequate descriptions of complex issues. The real problem lies in the fact that misdiagnosis is a dangerous business. Once a label is fixed to a conflict it can become an exclusive explanation for that”.[3]   The misdiagnosis is that the conflict has been described – by human rights groups, NGOs and the French government – in simple terms like genocide or ethnic cleansing that grab attention and cry out for international solutions.  There is clearly a need to stop the violence and restore government, but there is a pressing long-term need for an inclusive, power-sharing and redistributive solution that empowers people across the CAR’s regions and ends the marginalization of those not part of a ruling faction and its patronage network.

Conclusion

By the end of February 2014, the new interim government, African Union forces and the enhanced French presence had not made serious progress in disarming militias or ending sectarian violence.  The lasting danger for CAR is that conflicts which were about rebel grievances and competition between powerful factions have been transformed into deep splits within the CAR that may have been latent for decades but which had not been characteristic of CAR politics.  The CAR is an artificial creation with no great sense of national identity and a history of competition, with external interference for resources.  CAR’s politicians, the AU and France are in for a long haul if they are to overcome this bitter divide that has opened and create the conditions for compromise and real sharing of power.


[1] Pierre Kalck, Central African Republic: A Failure in Decolonization, New York, Praeger, 1971, p. 1.

[2] See Keith Somerville, Foreign Military Intervention in Africa, London: Pimnter, 1990. Chapters two and three.

[3] Lucy Hovil, Why are African conflicts so often misunderstood?,  African Arguments, 14 February 2014, http://africanarguments.org/2014/02/10/why-do-we-continually-misunderstand-conflict-in-africa-by-lucy-hovil/ accessed 14 February 2014

About The Author ():

Keith Somerville is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and teaches in the School of Politcs and International Relations at the University of Kent. He is the founder and editor of the Africa – News and Analysis website.

http://www.e-ir.info/2014/02/25/the-central-african-republic-an-artificial-state/

Central African Republic’s Djotodia to step down

Reuters

Central Africa interim leader to step down Thursday – sources

BANGUI/PARIS          Wed Jan 8, 2014

Central African Republic's President Michel Djotodia sits during a conference in Bangui December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Herve Serefio

Central African Republic’s President Michel Djotodia sits during a conference in Bangui December 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Herve Serefio

Central African Republic’s interim President Michel Djotodia is due to step down at a summit of regional leaders on Thursday amid frustration at his failure to quell religious violence in his nation, diplomatic and political sources said.

“It’s finished for him now,” said a source close to Djotodia, who said he was due to step aside at the summit on Thursday in the Chadian capital N’Djamena.

A senior French diplomatic source and political sources in Bangui said Central African leaders led by Chad’s Idriss Deby had run out of patience with Djotodia, who seized power in March at the head of the Seleka rebels.

French and African troops deployed in the country have struggled to stop tit-for-tat violence between Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power in March, and Christian militias. More than 1,000 people died in clashes in December.

Seleka leader Djotodia, installed as interim president under a deal with regional African states, has been powerless to halt the bloodshed, which has displaced some 1 million people and stirred fears of a repeat of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

“A political stabilisation of the country is imperative,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper earlier on Wednesday.

He declined to answer when asked if Djotodia could stay as president, saying: “It is envisaged that the countries of the region will meet on Thursday to take decisions.”

The meeting will discuss the various options for continuing the transition. The presidents of Congo Republic and Gabon, who are mediating in the crisis, would then convene a meeting to discuss the transition in Bangui on January 11, diplomatic sources said.  Reuters

Central African Republic – French start to disarm rebels

BBC

French troops in Bangui (8 Dec 2013) French troops were sent into Bangui on Friday after a UN resolution

 

French soldiers have started to remove weapons from fighters in the Central African Republic (CAR).

There was a brief exchange of gunfire between armed men and French soldiers near the airport in the capital, Bangui, as the disarmament began.

A 1,600-strong French force has been sent into the CAR, deployed after days of communal fighting claimed 400 lives.

The CAR has been in turmoil since March when an alliance of rebels, known as Seleka, seized power.

The alliance has since been disbanded and rebel leader Michel Djotodia is now president.

‘End to impunity’

France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said fighters loyal to interim President Djotodia had to return to barracks and the rest would have to surrender their weapons.

At the scene

image of Thomas Fessy Thomas Fessy BBC News, Bossangoa


It is a walk of death and desolation. A Muslim teenage girl was killed at the crossroads. We are told her body was then eaten by pigs.

Houses have been destroyed by rocket propelled grenades. On the day the fighting broke out, dozens of people from the Muslim neighbourhood fled to the imam’s house. It had always been a place of safety.

When former soldiers who are backing the Christian militia attacked his house, panic ensued; there was absolute chaos in the street. The attackers chased people down. Many bloodstains are still visible.

Three men were shot dead just before they could make a turn and escape. Another man left a bloody handprint on the doorstep of a house, desperately seeking refuge. He was executed in the front room.

As we walk deeper into the Muslim quarter, the stories go on.

Neither the Christians, nor the Muslims live in their own homes anymore; they have fled to camps on separate sides of this town.

“First we’ll ask gently and if they don’t react, we’ll do it by force. The operation will take some time,” he told French media as French troops began patrolling the streets of Bangui.

“The period of impunity is at an end,” he said.

The French were sent into the CAR on Friday after the UN Security Council backed a mandate to restore order “by all necessary measures” the previous evening.

The UN resolution followed a surge of violence involving Christian self-defence militias that had sprung up after a series of attacks by mainly Muslim fighters from the disbanded Seleka rebel forces.

The Red Cross says 394 people were killed in three days of fighting in Bangui.

Bodies were still being recovered from the streets of the capital on Sunday. A Reuters correspondent described seeing bodies piled up in the local hospital’s mortuary and its corridors.

While French troops were visible on the main streets of the capital, French TV showed footage of former Seleka militiamen still in control of other areas of the city.

Reporters in Bangui described the atmosphere as tense.

Thousands of Christians have sought shelter at Bangui airport, now under French guard, out of terror of the Muslim militiamen, Britain’s Channel Four TV reports. Thousands have also fled to churches and a monastery.

It was near the airport that there was gunfire on Monday morning.

“The Seleka [ex-rebels] didn’t want to disarm. There was a brief exchange of fire, and they ran away,” Celestin Christ Leon, a spokesperson for the regional African force based at the airport, told Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, distressing stories have begun to emerge of the violence that has befallen the country in recent days.

Relief agencies told Associated Press that ex-Seleka fighters had dragged nine wounded young men they believed to be part of a Christian militia out of a Bangui hospital and killed them.

The Red Cross says bodies are still being found and many of the victims have been children, according to the UN’s children agency.

Former Seleka militiamen are still in evidence in Bangui despite the arrival of French troops Former Seleka militiamen are still in evidence in Bangui despite the arrival of French troops
Displaced Christians at a monastery in Bangui (8 Dec 2013) Thousands of Christians have fled to a monastery in Bangui in search of protection
Children sheltering in garden of Archbishop of Bangui Families have also sought shelter from the violence at St Paul’s church

One distraught young girl screamed that her parents had been killed. “We’ve become orphans. Why? They killed my father. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

The bloodshed has not been confined to the capital.

‘Not my men’

The BBC’s Thomas Fessy, in the northern town of Bossangoa, has described how a number of people were killed when a Christian militia attacked the house of an imam, in a Muslim quarter, where dozens of people had sought shelter.

The attackers chased people down, he says, and bloodstains are still visible.

People’s homes in the town are deserted. Some 40,000 Christians have sought refuge around a church. About 7,000 Muslims are stranded at a school located on the other side of the town.

Mr Djotodia has said he cannot do anything to bring to order fighters who did not join the army when he took power.

“I’m in control of my own men. Those I don’t control are not my men,” he said.

France said on Saturday that the African Union would increase the size of its existing force of 2,500 peacekeepers to 6,000.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that as many as 9,000 peacekeepers would be required to move into the CAR, and he hoped they would eventually become a United Nations operation.

An estimated 10% of CAR’s 4.6 million people have fled their homes, while more than a million urgently need food aid, according to the UN.

Map showing the location of the Central African Republic and the countries that border it