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Central African Republic Signs ‘Immediate’ Peace Deal With Rebel Groups

Armed rebel groups have agreed to an “immediate” nationwide ceasefire in exchange for political representation. Sectarian violence has plagued the African country since Muslim militias overthrew the government in 2013.

The Central African government and several armed rebel groups on Monday signed a Vatican-backed peace accord in Rome aimed at ending years of violence in the African country.

“We commit to the immediate implementation by political-military groups of a country-wide ceasefire, to be monitored by the international community, as a fundamental step on the way to definitive peace,” read the peace deal.

Since 2013, sectarian violence has plagued the Central African Republic since 2013, when an alliance of Muslim-majority rebel groups known as the Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize. The ouster triggered a reprisal attacks from “anti-Balaka” militias comprising Christian and animist groups. While efforts to stabilize the country have tempered violence, fighting has flared in recent months. In May, violence between armed groups left roughly 300 people dead and 100,000 others displaced, marking the worst flare-up since the overthrow of the government. The UN has warned of an unfolding humanitarian disaster, with half the population of 4.5 million requiring assistance.

‘Reconstruction efforts’

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 recognized the armed groups “as part of the reconstruction efforts” aimed at stabilizing the country.

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, head of the UN mission in the Central African Republic MINUSCA, said he 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, according to the mission’s official Twitter account.

Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Catholic peace group Sant’Egidio that negotiated the accord, described it as “an historic agreement, a deal full of hope.” The Vatican-backed group is known for having played a key role in secret meetings in Rome to negotiate the end of Mozambique’s civil war in 1992.

UN peacekeeping missions in Africa

DR Congo: UN’s largest mission

Since 1999, the UN has been trying to pacify the eastern region of the DR Congo. The mission known as MONUSCO has nearly 20,000 soldiers and an annual budget of $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros). Despite being the largest and most expensive mission of the United Nations, violence in the country continues.

Darfur: Powerless against violence

UNAMID is a joint mission of the African Union and the UN in Sudan’s volatile Darfur region. Observers consider the mission a failure. “The UN Security Council should work harder at finding political solutions, rather than spending money for the military’s long-term deployment,” says security expert Thierry Vircoulon.

S.Sudan: Turning a blind eye to fighting?

Since the beginning of South Sudan’s civil war in 2013, nearly 4 million people have been displaced according to the UN. Some of them are being sheltered in UN compounds. But when clashes between government forces and rebels broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, the blue helmets failed to effectively intervene. Later, the Kenyan UNMISS commander was sacked by former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Mali: The most dangerous UN mission in the world

UN peacekeepers in Mali are monitoring compliance with the peace agreement between the government and an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels. But Islamist terrorist groups such as AQIM continue to carry out attacks making MINUSMA one of the UN’s most dangerous military intervention in the world. Germany has deployed more than 700 soldiers as well as helicopters.

CAR: Sexual abuse scandals making headlines

MINUSCA, the UN’s mission in Central Africa Republic has not helped to improve the image of the United Nations in Africa. French troops have been accused of sexually abusing children by the Code Blue Campaign. Three years on, victims haven’t got any help from the UN. Since 2014, 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers have been deployed. Violence in the country has receded but tensions remain.

Western Sahara: Hope for lasting peace

The UN mission in the Westsahara known as MINURSO has been active since 1991. MINURSO is there to monitor the armistice between Morocco and the rebels of the “Frente Polisario” who are fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. In 2016, Morocco which has occupied this territory since 1976, dismissed 84 MINURSO staff after being angered by a statement from the UN Secretary-General.

Ivory Coast: Peaceful end of a mission

The UN mission in Ivory Coast fulfilled its objectives on June 30, 2016 after 14 years. Since 2016, the troops have been gradually withdrawn. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this was a “turning point for the United Nations and the Ivory Coast.” But only after the full withdrawal will it be clearly known whether or not the mission was successful on a long-term basis.

Liberia: Mission accomplished

The UN deployment in Liberia is – as in neighboring Ivory Coast – will soon be history. The soldiers are leaving by mid-2017. Since the end of the 14-year civil war, UNMIL has ensured stability in Liberia and helped build a functioning state. Liberia’s government now wants to provide security for itself. The country is still struggling with the consequences of a devastating Ebola epidemic.

Sudan: Ethiopians as peace promoters?

The UNISFA soldiers are patrolling the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both claim to be rightful owners of this territory located between the two countries. More than 4,000 blue helmets from Ethiopia are deployed. Ethiopia is the world’s second largest peace-keeping contributor. At the same time, the Ethiopian army is accused of human rights violations back home.

Somalia: Future model AU mission?

UN peacekeepers in Somalia are fighting under the leadership of the African Union in a mission known as AMISOM. The soldiers are in the Horn of African country to battle the al-Shabaab Islamists and bring stability to the war-torn nation. Ethiopia, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria have all contributed their troops for AMISOM.

Author: Martina Schwikowski

ls/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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