from OMAN MBIKO in Bangui, Central African Republic
BANGUI, (CAJ News) – WITH no end in sight to the conflict battering the Central African Republic (CAR), it is more imperative than ever for countries in the region to step in.
While the sub-region is synonymous with conflict, CAR’s has recently emerged the most worrisome in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) bloc.
This has worsened since the end of December after contentious elections.
Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the incumbent, won the elections for a second term at the helm of the landlocked country of some 4,8 million people. Instead of bringing much-needed stability, the polls have aggravated a conflict that has raged for the better part of the past decade.
Militants loyal to former president Francois Bozizé have gone on the rampage after the polls, a development that has displaced more than 200 000 people within the country and in neighbouring states in less than two months.
Islamist radical groups including the Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC), Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) and Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC) as well as Christian extremist anti-Balaka formations are blamed for the insurgency.
The involvement of mercenaries from neighbouring Chad, to the north, is exacerbating the conflict.
Fears of a diplomatic row between the two former French colonies were allayed recently when the CAR government, in a post of Facebook, stated that the participation of mercenaries from Chad did not indicate an attempt by the neighbouring government of President Idriss Deby to interfere in CAR politics.
Notwithstanding that, the escalating crisis indicates that Chad and other countries in the 11-member ECCAS region must assist Touadéra’s administration in its fight against the rampaging rebels groups rendering the CAR ungovernable.
Among other measures, countries in the region can secure their borders with CAR and ensure that their respective citizens do not offer assistance to
Bozizé and the criminals capitalizing on the crisis.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) believes ECCAS’ intervention is necessary to curb “another cyclone of violence.”
ICG especially called on Angola to step in, as it occupies the presidency of the commission of the ECCAS.
“Congo-Brazzaville, which has historically been the lead mediator in CAR’s crises and has influence over the country’s political opposition, may need to weigh in,” ICG stated.
The ctastrophe in CAR is already a regional crisis, in terms of the rising refugee numbers.
Refugee arrivals into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have reached 92 000 according to local authorities since the poll violence.
Some 13 240 people have crossed into Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo.
Some 100 000 people remain internally displaced inside CAR, according to figures compiled by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Most refugees are living in dire conditions in remote, hard-to-reach areas close to the rivers without basic shelter and facing acute food shortages,” lamented Boris Cheshirkov, the UNHCR spokesperson.
– CAJ News