Is Uganda leaving the CAR at the worst possible time?

The Central African Republic (CAR) remains in trouble. Despite democratic elections in 2016, the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has minimal power outside of the southern capital Bangui. Instead, armed factions control vast swathes of the country. These factions have been in conflict with each other, leaving many civilians being caught in the middle.

While this conflict has been unfolding, the Ugandan military has been conducting operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the East of the country. However, they have recently pulled out, leaving the East to the LRA and any other faction that feels it could hold power there. This removal may well have come at the worst possible time for the CAR.

The factions are either former members of the mainly Muslim Seleka movement, which took control of the country following a coup in 2013, or members of the mixed Christian and animist anti-Balaka militias, which formed from self-defence forces who responded to the Seleka violence. Both groups have committed religiously and ethnically charged violence against civilians. Prior to the 2013 violence, religion had rarely been a cause of conflict for a country with a long history of civil conflict. Conflict had been the cause by neglect of the North by those in control of the country. We are witnessing an increase in ethnic conflict by all sides involved.

The CARs factions can be split into regions. To the West there is 3R, led by the self-proclaimed “General Sidiki” , who claims to be protecting ethnic Peuhls, but has been carrying out violent attacks on civilians. In the North and Centre there is  Noureddine Adam, leader of the Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC), who has declared and wants an independent state. South and Central CAR is where the Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC), led by Ali Darass, operates. The UPC and Darass argue that they are protecting the ethnic Fulanis, who have been the target of violence. However, despite their name the UPC are notorious for the atrocities they commit against the local population. The FPRC and UPC have been in conflict over the central town of Bambari for most of 2017.

Within this complex web of violence, the Ugandan military has been controversially conducting a mission in the East of the country looking for Joseph Kony and the LRA. The LRA were not part of the Seleka or the anti-Balaka, but have been committing atrocities in the East of the country. Uganda, with the aid of the United States, has been hunting Kony for many years now. However, with the US pulling their support, it appears that one of the most famous manhunts is coming to an end.

Uganda’s President Museveni has pulled his troops out of the CAR. They have left the East under the protection of the Central African Republic army. This army is newly formed, newly trained, and on the surface would appear underprepared to guarantee peace in the region. Clearly if the government is going to regain control of the country then a fully prepared military must be deployed as soon as possible.

The departure of Ugandan forces and the deployment of the CAR military could not have come at a more difficult time. Over the past few weeks violence has erupted again. In the border town of Bangassou the Red Cross reported that 115 people had died following clashes involving former anti-Balaka militias on the 13th and 14th of May 2017. Six peacekeepers belonging to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) were killed in the fighting.  Over 100 people were reportedly killed during clashes between anti-Balaka fighters and members of an ex-Seleka group between the 7th and 9th of May in Alindao. Many civilians fled the mining town of Bria following violence between the 15th and 18th of May and on the 2nd of June.

The combination of a fresh untested CAR military and increasing violence does not bode well for the future of the country. Despite increasing its activity over recent months, the MINUSCA has been unable to curb the recent violence. If the CAR forces are defeated, the East becomes another vacuum within which the LRA could flourish, or any of the above mentioned groups could expand into.


Featured image | Faustin Archange Touadera | adrienblanc | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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