What is the military situation in the Central African Republic?
The Central African rebels finally left Bangassou, ten days after having conquered it. The city is “Under the total control of Minusca”, declared Saturday, January 16 in the evening his spokesperson. The rebels “Abandoned the positions they had occupied (since January 3) and fled the city at night”.
Many inhabitants of this city, located 750 km east of the capital Bangui, had taken refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “It’s a great joy”Bishop Juan Jose Aguirre, Bishop of Bangassou, told AFP. “After thirteen days of sleeping under the stars, people will be able to go home”.
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The UN ultimatum and the arrival of reinforcements – made up of contingents from the UN mission in the Central African Republic and hundreds of Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries dispatched by their countries at the start of the rebel offensive – have had their effect. But the forces present there remain “On alert to prevent any action by armed groups targeting the civilian population, state authority and peacekeepers or the return of rebels to the city”.
Just before their departure, the rebels launched some operations of “Looting” in Bangassou. A practice which, for the Central African Prime Minister, Firmin Ngrebada, reveals “One of the objectives of these foreign mercenaries: to plunder our wealth and the property of our people”.
What is the link with the December elections?
The situation in the Central African Republic has continued to deteriorate since December. Rather than calm the protest, the elections, organized on December 27, precipitated the resumption of hostilities.
The Khartoum agreement, which was signed in February 2019 between fourteen armed groups and the government of the president in place, Faustin Archange Touadéra, allowed the integration of some of them into the government: often honorary positions were held. been entrusted to some of their members. But it was not enough to calm their ambitions in terms of the distribution of wealth: minerals, gold or cattle.
On December 17, 2020, the six most powerful armed groups – occupying two-thirds of the Central African Republic in civil war for eight years – allied themselves in the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), before announcing two days later an offensive to prevent the re-election of President Touadéra.
The election was held on December 27, 2020, but less than one in two registered voters were able to go to the polling stations due to insecurity across the country outside of Bangui. Faustin Archange Touadéra was declared the winner but the opposition is demanding the cancellation of the presidential election.
What possible consequences?
The violence is likely to continue at least until January 19, when the Constitutional Court must validate or reject the result of the election.
Experts are very severe with President Faustin Archange Touadera, who insisted at all costs that the presidential and legislative elections be held on December 27, supported in his stubbornness by the ” group of five “ (the UN, the European Union, France, the United States and Russia). “When an election takes place under these conditions, this necessarily poses a problem of legitimacy for whoever declares himself the winner”, underlines Thierry Vircoulon, coordinator of the Central and Southern Africa observatory at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
“A democracy is not just an electoral protocol, it is a whole system of the rule of law”, supports Nicolas Normand, former diplomat and specialist in Africa. “You have to be able to prepare for the vote in good conditions. It should be inclusive, reliable, transparent, and meaningful, even if it means not meeting the deadlines ”.
Since December, 60,000 Central Africans have fled the violence, the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva said on Friday. “Calls for an immediate end to all violence” and “The immediate return of all parties to meaningful dialogue and progress towards peace”.