An Elusive Peace for the Central African Republic

Mere days after the Forum for National Reconciliation and Political Dialogue for the Central African Republic in Brazzaville, the frail cease-fire agreement between Seleka and anti-balaka has already been shattered. Over 22 people were killed last week in Batangafo, a town near the border with Chad (which also happens to be former CAR president Francois Bozizé’s hometown), while some members of the Seleka were killed during a clash with French troops yesterday. Meanwhile, the interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, asked for Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke and his cabinet’s resignation on August 5. The PM and his government resigned, but no new Prime Minister has been appointed yet, leaving an undesirable political vacuum during a critical time.  

The PM and cabinet’s resignation is supposed to fulfill the promise made during the Brazzaville negotiations to make the government more inclusive and representative. But,  given the timing of the resignation – in the wake of a new cycle of violence and a broken cease-fire – the move appears weak and scrambled. Samba-Panza, whose sterling business and political reputation prior to becoming her country’s president has not translated into a strong presidency, seems to be influenced by events, rather than the other way around. The Associated Press is speculating that a Muslim Prime Minister will be selected to replace Nzapayeke, a move that would potentially appease the Seleka movement, but may also anger the Christian majority and the anti-balaka.

But to try and predict what the reaction will be is almost a futile exercise – as we alluded to in our last piece about the cease-fire agreement, the official negotiators representing the Seleka and anti-balaka movements are not speaking on behalf of homogeneous groups. Whatever was agreed to in the comfortable conference center in Brazzaville was not necessarily going translate into a direct improvement on the ground. And, indeed, as the events of the past 10 days have shown, it did not. Symbolizing the rift between the various strands of the broad Seleka movement and the factional nature of the violent groups in the CAR, earlier last week, Seleka military chief Joseph Zoundeiko told the BBC that his forces would ignore the cease-fire, which did not take into account the views of the movement’s military wing. Another Seleka representative, Ahmat Nedjad, told Reuters that the agreement was broken right after it was signed.

As the conflict continues to kill, wound, displace and disrupt people’s lives in the CAR, a long-term, sustainable peaceful resolution appears difficult to reach. With highly divided and factionalized actors in the conflict, negotiations will continue to be challenging at best, and ineffectual at worst. In addition, as many analysts and human rights defenders have noted, there has been no serious discussions about bringing perpetrators to account, and nothing was included in the most recent agreement about prosecuting for war crimes or crimes against humanity. The interrelated questions of impunity, immunity and accountability loom large, and will need to be addressed for any sort of sustainable – and just – peace. 

Photo credit: Catherine Samba-Panza at a meeting in the CAR – May 2014. UN Women Flickr Photo Stream.