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Conflict

Hopes for end to Central African Republic crisis

The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) is seeking a solution to a conflict with rebels who are demanding that agreements which were made several years ago should be kept.

Rebels of the Seleka alliance have been on the move for several weeks. They now control parts of northern CAR and are reported to be close to the capital, Bangui. After a civil war lasting several years, a number of agreements were made with various militia groups in 2007.

Demonstrators in Bangui REUTERS/Stringer

Protesters gathered in front of the French embassy in Bangui

Seleka (which means 'alliance') is now insisting that the agreements on demobilisation and reintegration should be implemented. There is a great deal for them at stake, Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group (ICC) told DW.

"The rebels are demanding the money they were promised in order to help them reintegrate into society. The demobilisation program includes disarming the fighters. This has not happened and that's what's behind the current problems. It's also about creating jobs for the rebels, in order to bring them back into civilian life," Vircoulon said.

Need for regional solution

In the meantime the Bangui government has turned to weapons to halt the rebels' advance. In response to a request by President Bozize, soldiers from neighboring Chad are securing the capital. On Thursday (27.12.2012), Bozize called on France for help. But President Francois Hollande made it clear that any intervention by French troops could only take place with a United Nations' mandate. It was not France's duty to protect a foreign regime but to protect its own citizens, Hollande said. In the opinion of Thierry Vircoulon, the call for aid from the former colonial power is anachronistic.

"It throws us back into the distant past. It's rather paradoxical for Africans to call on France to re-enter the stage as their protecting power. Those days are long gone. These days it is up to the Central African region to manage the crisis in the CAR."

Vircoulon was referring to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) whose members, in addition to CAR, include Gabon, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad. In mid-December heads of state of member countries met in the capital of Chad, Ndjamena, to discuss ways out of the crisis.

CAR President Francois Bozize (Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)

President Bozize called on France for help

They agreed to bolster a joint military mission in Central Africa which began in 2008 and was originally intended to end in 2013. Negotiations between the government of CAR and the rebels are also part of the plans.

Fears of violence

The mood in Bangui is tense. The US and UN have removed some of their staff from the city. The population is hoping for a peaceful solution. Bangui-based professor of law Gandao Gilbert told DW people are worried there could be a coup which would unleash a new wave of violence and destruction.

"We don't want to see this repeated," Gilbert said. "That's why we are hoping for talks. We're sure the rebels can find a lasting solution to their problems through negotiations with the government."

A location has already been selected. Talks could begin as early as Friday December 28 in Gabon's capital Libreville.

DW.DE