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Think-tank warns of heightened risk of violence as key talks open

Like many residents of the site for displaced people in the town of Kabo, this man believes the threat posed by bandits in his village is to great for it to be safe to go home.
(Anthony Morland/IRIN)

The Central African Republic (CAR) could return to widespread armed conflict if important talks that began this week stray from the theme of democratisation and transitional justice, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned.

“Both the regime and the main opposition forces see armed conflict as the ultimate way out of the crisis and are making preparations to return to it,” ICG warned in a policy briefing,Untangling the Political Dialogue.

The Inclusive Political Dialogue, which began on 8 December, is supposed to steer CAR out of a vicious cycle of coups, rebellions and banditry that has left its 4.3 million inhabitants among the poorest people on earth.

Chaired by Pierre Buyoya, the former president of Burundi, the talks involve the CAR government, political opposition, several rebel groups and civil society.

“Unlike the virtually every other country in sub-Saharan Africa, CAR has failed to make any progress in human development for almost three decades,” stated Brock Boddie of the UN Development Programme on the CAR’s Humanitarian Development Partnership Team website.

“While real incomes in Africa have risen 10-fold, in CAR they have stagnated. CAR has also seen no improvement on almost every indicator from health, education and governance to the ease of doing business.

“CAR’s development crisis has played no small role in planting the seeds of conflict. The complete lack of economic opportunity and social services [has] fuelled rebellions in the north of the country. As a result, an estimated 300,000 Central Africans have been forced to flee their homes: 198,000 have been internally displaced, and some 102,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Sudan,” Boddie explained.

According to the ICG, “genuine democratisation and state reform nevertheless seem possible if all sides can overcome that temptation [to stray from the theme] and manage their differences in a consensual way, but the political dialogue needs to be refocused around organisation of elections in 2010 and negotiation of a credible transitional justice mechanism.

[Burundi] Burundi President Pierre Buyoya Place: AU summit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Date: February 4, 2003

President Pierre Buyoya
Anthony Mitchell
[Burundi] Burundi President Pierre Buyoya Place: AU summit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Date: February 4, 2003 ...
Tuesday, February 4, 2003
President bans private radio stations from carrying rebel statements
[Burundi] Burundi President Pierre Buyoya Place: AU summit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Date: February 4, 2003 ...

Photo: Anthony Mitchell
Former Burundian Pierre Buyoya is chairing the talks

“To avoid another round of violent regime change, the government should also complete reform of the security sector, including equitable integration of former rebels into the security services,” ICG warned.

The think-tank took the international community to task for its “complacency about democracy in the CAR [and its] readiness to give up on reconciliation in return for simple disarmament. Indeed, they are de facto abetting new insurrections by granting blank concessions to rebel leaders without demanding anything else from them except lip-service to legality.”

In a message to participants in the dialogue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the challenges ahead.

“The next two weeks will require enormous effort, a sense of compromise and sacrifice by all participants,” he said.

“In attending this dialogue, you have put the interest of the nation and the people of the Central African Republic above all other interests. This is encouraging, and proves your determination to reconcile your differences through dialogue, not violence,” he added.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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