By James Karuhanga
President Faustin-Archange Touadéra of the Central African Republic speaks during a news conference in Bangui on Wednesday, December 30. He told international journalists that former President François Bozizé, who is leading a rebel coalition, has not fled the country as claimed by some media reports. Photo: James Karuhanga
A regional Summit held in Luanda, Friday, January 29, on the political and security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) ended with leaders urging rebels to observe a unilateral and immediate ceasefire.
Rebels have been urged to retreat from areas near Bangui and resume their initial positions, a communique that The New Times has seen indicates.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) mini Summit on the political and security situation in CAR was convened by the President of Angola, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, in his capacity as Chairperson of the ICGLR.
Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, represented President Paul Kagame at the Summit.
Besides CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera, others included Denis Sassou-Nguesso, of the Republic of the Congo, and Idriss Déby Itno, of Chad. Gen. Ibrahim Gabir, a member of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, represented the Sudanese leadership.
According to the communique, the leaders backed recently re-elected Touadera and consequently, “won’t allow that actors who oppose” last December’s election results try to seize power by force.
They renewed their commitment in favor of dialogue and permanent consultation among the political actors and civil society in order to take the country out of the current crisis.
They also want necessary steps to be taken for the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo imposed on the CAR. The Security Council, the United Nations’ most powerful body, has imposed an arms embargo on the country since 2013.
Mercenaries in rebel forces
The leaders who agreed to meet in Luanda again after 10 days noted that there is a worsening security situation as rebels “are being supplied with increasingly sophisticated weapons and other means to carry out their actions against the population” and legitimate authorities of the CAR.
A “strong presence of mercenaries in the rebel forces” was noted by the leaders. They affirm that the security situation in the country “represents a serious threat to security and stability in the sub-region and especially in the neighboring countries of the Central African Republic.”
Neighbours Chad and Sudan, are reported to be hideouts of radicals that infiltrate the country and commit acts of violence, adding to atrocities committed by a coalition of armed groups led by former President François Bozizé. The latter tried to forcefully disrupt last December’s presidential poll but he failed. The rebels he commands are still intent on causing havoc. But their attempts at taking the capital have been repulsed with scores of rebels killed.
The Summit called on rebel groups to disengage immediately from the Douala (Cameroon)-Bangui corridor in order to allow free circulation of people and goods. The rebels’ attacks and looting along the corridor are “causing a humanitarian crisis with multiple effects.”
Food and other commodity prices in Bangui have gradually risen steeply since the country’s main supply route from Cameroon was cut off by armed groups.
Leaders condemned the looting and murders committed on civil and humanitarian staff as well as UN peacekeepers “and demand for justice.”
The CAR government is determined to fight on and has called on the youth to stand up and help the national army wipe out elements of the rebel coalition intent on disrupting the path to peace and stability.
Mid this month, UN peacekeepers and government forces repulsed a rebel attack on the outskirts of the capital; captured five rebels, and killed 37 others.
On January 24, the CAR’s army and its allies launched an offensive about 90 kilometres from the capital, Bangui, killed 44 rebels, and captured mercenaries from Chad and Sudan.
Bozizé, who faces an international arrest warrant, initiated by the CAR in 2013, now leads the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), formed by several armed groups last December as they looked to disrupt last year’s presidential poll.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) has lost seven peacekeepers, including one Rwandan, in recent rebel attacks.
It holds the Bozize’s coalition responsible for the consequences of the violence on the civilian population and it has threatened that attacks against peacekeepers can be considered as war crimes and prosecuted.
The conflict in the CAR has seen Rwanda and Russia deploy troops – at the request of the government in Bangui – to help prevent a coalition of rebels and mercenaries from neighbouring countries from inflaming tensions in the troubled nation.
Kigali deployed “force protection troops” – trained to conduct special operations – to the country on December 20, 2020, under a bilateral agreement on defense.
By quickly agreeing to help and sending troops to help the CAR’s national army battle rebels, and save lives, Rwanda set a good example that other regional countries should follow, Marie-Noëlle Koyara, the CAR’s Minister of National Defence and Army Reconstruction, said last December.
Rwanda is also one of the top troop contributors to MINUSCA which started in April 2014 to protect civilians in the country under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.