The Libreville peace-talks between the government and the rebels ended up on the 11 January with a ceasefire and a power sharing deal but it remains to be seen whether the ceasefire will hold.
On the 9 January, peace negotiations started in Libreville between the government of the Central African Republic (CAR), the rebels of the “Seleka” coalition and the political opposition, nearly one month after the launch of their blitz offensive which ended up with the loss by the government of two-thirds of the territory.
The episode started in fact on the last 20 August, with the creation of this coalition whose name means “alliance” in the national sango language by the rebels of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) which is active since 2008 at the Chadian and Sudanese borders, in the North of the country and their allies of the Patriot Convention for the Salvation of the Country (CPSK). Sometime later, both movements succeeded in getting the support of two other groups, the Union of the Democratic Forces for the Rally (UFDR) and the Democratic Front of the Central African people (FDPC). Their numbers were estimated by French military sources at some 6 000 fighters, which is the equivalent of two thirds of the rag-tag Central African Armed Forces (FACA).
A combination of factors has brought all these groups together. One of them is the failure of the demobilization which was supposed to follow the 2008 peace agreement but also the anger provoked by the disappearance in early 2010 of the historical leader of the CPJP, colonel Charles Massi, just after he was handed over by the Chadian army to the FACAs which led to suspicions that he died from torture in custody. The massive rigging at the January 2011 presidential elections and the death in a Cameroonian hospital the 5 April of that year of the former President Ange-Félix Patassé, who was not allowed to leave the country during three weeks while he was agonizing, add to the frustrations. Besides, since he overthrew his predecessor Patassé in 2003, no meaningful improvement of the social conditions of the population has taken place. About two thirds of the population is living under the poverty line and the vast majority of the civil servants are still claiming arrears of salaries which haven’t been paid to them in some cases since ten years !
Creation of a Government of National Unity
In that context, the Seleka launched its offensive n the last 10 December and nearly two weeks before had conquered very large parties of the national territory, arrived at Sibut, only 160 km to the North of Bangui, shortly before Christmas. The FACA hardly opposed any resistance and the situation became so critical that on the 21 December, a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) decided to reinforce the regional peacekeeping mission MICOPAX which was about to pull out in August.
The quick deployment of 280 additional French troops and of 760 troops of Chad, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon of the Central African Multilateral Force (FOMAC) prevented however the rebels to take the capital. But at the same time, President François Bozize had little choice but to announce his will to negotiate, offering even the creation of a Government of National Unity on the 30 December, during his meeting at the Bangui international airport with the chairman of the African Union, the Beninois President Thomas Boni Yayi.
Eventually, negotiations started on the 9 January in Libreville, under the auspices of the mediator, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville. On the 11 January, the negotiators representing the CAR government, the rebels and the opposition split after sealing two agreements: a ceasefire and a power sharing deal.
The rebels who were at the beginning of the talks calling for Bozize’s immediate departure agreed that he could remain in place until the expiration of his mandate in January 2016 and also accepted to pull out from the towns they had conquered since the 10 December 2012. But Seleka’s spokesman, lieutenant Florian Ndjadder called for the immediate departure of the immediate repatriation of the 200 South African “mercenaries” sent by President Jacob Zuma to Bozize’s rescue at the beginning of January.
President Bozize also accepted to appoint a Prime Minister from the opposition at the head of a government of national unity and on the 12 January he also accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Faustin Archange Touadera. According to the Libreville deal, the President accepted that he will not be allowed to fire the future Primer Minister. He also had to concede the dissolution of the Parliament and a one-year transition period to prepare legislative elections.
Both sides are weak
The question now is wether the ceasefire and the political agreement will hold. Indeed, when Bozize left for Libreville on the 9 January, it was not clear yet whether he was prepared to share the power with the opposition and the rebels. His party militias were searching the houses in the moslem neighbourhoods and erected roadblocks to intimidate opponents and alleged supporters of the rebels. Pro-Bozize supporters were also singing insults on the 10 January during demonstrations against the main opposition negotiators in Libreville, Martin Ziguele and Nicolas Tiangaye, which may not bode necessarily very well for their safe return to Bangui.
One of the main problems is that both sides are weak. The rebels’s coalition is quite heteroclite and lacks a real program There are also some quarrels between rebels over the leadership of the movement. Bozize, can only relie on foreigners, such as the French and the troops of the Central African States to keep the rebels at arms length. His own FACA troops are demoralized and lack discipline. The fear of some Central African observers in Libreville is that the negotiators in Libreville once again haven’t gone far enough to eradicate the evils of instability such as impunity and bad governance that characterize this fragile state for more than several decades.