Central African government to meet armed groups in Khartoum for peace talks

The African Union said Wednesday, January 9 that long-awaited peace talks between the government of the Central African Republic and militia groups would take place in Khartoum this month.

“Direct dialogue between the CAR government and armed groups [will] be held on January 24 in Khartoum, Sudan, under the auspices of the A.U.,” A.U. ambassador Moussa Nebie tweeted, citing CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

The A.U. launched an “African initiative” to bring peace to the CAR in July 2017. It relaunched talks on Tuesday with U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, A.U. Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui, officials from the Economic Community of Central African States and foreign ministers from the region.

Majority-Christian CAR descended into violence following the ousting of President Francois Bozize in 2013 by the Seleka, a coalition of mainly Muslim rebel groups.

Seleka was officially disbanded within months, but many fighters refused to disarm, becoming known as ex-Seleka. Many others joined the mainly Christian anti-balaka militia to fight the Seleka, leading to a spiral of violence between groups along religious and ethnic lines.

By the end of 2014, CAR was de facto partitioned – anti-balaka in the southwest and ex-Seleka in the northeast. Touadera’s weak government controls around a fifth of the country and relies heavily on the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Minusca, for support. The rest is controlled by at least 14 different militia groups who often fight each other for revenue from extortion, roadblocks or mineral resources.

Violence by both sides led to thousands of deaths. Nearly 700,000 people are displaced, 570,000 have fled the country and 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.

Seven peace agreements have been signed since the crisis erupted in 2012, but none has endured.

In August, the Facilitation Panel of the African Initiative of the African Union met with armed groups, where they agreed 104 demands later presented to the government.

Five issues were “put to one side” by the A.U., including the demand for a general amnesty. Five human rights organizations united in opposition to an amnesty for the armed groups which they said “would be incompatible with the government’s duty to bring those responsible for grave international crimes to justice.”

Diplomats and observers have criticized the process, supported by the U.N. and CAR’s main partners, for inefficiency.

Also in August, Russia and Sudan brokered parallel peace negotiations in Khartoum. Rival ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka armed groups signed a declaration of understanding which said they had decided to “create a common framework for dialogue and action for a real and lasting peace,” and a “national platform,” but some of the signatories have since withdrawn from that process.

A Special Criminal Court has been set up to decide cases of serious rights violations committed in the country since 2003.

Anti-Balaka militias quit Central African disarmament program over war crimes arrest

With reporting from AFP

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