The government of the Central African Republic yesterday (19 June) signed an accord with 13 of the 14 armed groups in the country, aiming to end the ethic and religious conflict that has killed thousands of people.
The deal, which was mediated by the Roman Catholic Sant’Egidio peace group and signed at their headquarters in Rome, calls for an immediate end to hostilities and recognition of the results of last year’s presidential elections.
The country has been plagued by violence since 2013, when the mainly Muslim Séléka rebels seized power, prompting reprisals from Anti-Balaka (“anti-machete”) militias, whose fighters are mostly animists or nominally Christian.
Under the peace deal, the signatories committed to “restoring the [authority of the] state across the national territory”, in exchange for representation in the country’s political processes.
“The government undertakes to ensure military groups are represented at all levels,” the agreement read. It also recognised the armed groups “as part of the reconstruction efforts” aimed at stabilising the country.
Political crises have regularly rocked the Central African Republic. Despite last year’s presidential election, which was aimed at ending the bloodshed, violence has increased markedly in recent months.
In two weeks in May, fighting between militias killed about 300 people and displaced 100,000. Around 2.2 million people, about half the population, need humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.
Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, head of the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), welcomes this “important step forward for peace”.
“The priority is the immediate cessation of hostilities to end the civilian suffering of the population,” the MINUSCA chief said, on Twitter.
Sant’Egidio’s Marco Impagliazzo, described it as “an historic agreement, a deal full of hope.”
But scepticism remains, given that various peace deals, including the July 2014 Brazzaville’s Peace Agreement, and the May 2016 Bangui’s National Forum, have failed to bring lasting peace in the country.
“They signed this document in the context of serious violence that is continuing in the east of the country,” said Lewis Mudge, African Researcher at Human Rights Watch. “To me, it reads like a first step”.