Central Africa militias abuse peace deal to tighten grip, say experts

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AFP) – After years of bloodshed in the poor and largely lawless Central African Republic (CAR), renewed hopes of peace are being eroded by the country’s militia groups, experts said.

The military situation across the landlocked country has been considered stable since the deal – the 13th in a decade – was signed in February between the government and 14 armed groups.

But assaults on civilians and fighting among the militias themselves continue unabated in the provinces, and some armed groups are even misusing terms of the pact to tighten their grip.

A new report to the United Nations (UN) says impediments to peace range from attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers to “doublespeak” from rebel forces, banditry and arms trafficking.

“There is little evidence to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in the behaviour of combatants or that leaders have made efforts to identify and discipline those responsible,” according to the report, authored by experts.

The panel was founded to advise the UN on enforcing sanctions on the CAR, including travel bans on targetted individuals, the freezing of assets and an arms embargo.

The CAR has been struggling to recover from the bloodletting that broke out when former president Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by Seleka rebels.

Former colonial ruler France intervened militarily under a UN mandate, pushing the Seleka from power, and a UN peacekeeping mission was set up to help stability.

But the country is still engulfed in regular clashes and armed groups control about 80 per cent of the country.

Murders, rapes, hold-ups, kidnapping and arbitrary detention account for anything between 10 and 70 violations of the CAR peace agreement recorded each week by MINUSCA, the 15,000-strong UN stabilisation force in the country.