“When the agreement reached in Khartoum was signed, it was already a dead letter the next day in Bangui”, said His Exc. Mgr. Juan José Aguirre Muños, Bishop of Bangassou, in commenting on the agreement between the Government of the Central African Republic and 14 rebel groups. The agreement was negotiated in Khartoum and then signed on 6 February in the Central African capital, Bangui.
The fact that the negotiations took place in the Sudanese capital and not in Addis Ababa the Ethiopian capital and the African Union’s headquarters, according to Mgr. Aguirre, is significant because the leaders of five rebel groups feared being arrested there because wanted by the Court International Criminal Court. Sudan, on the other hand, does not recognise the Court therefore Khartoum was a safe place for them.
“It is the eighth peace agreement signed in two years – , recalls the bishop -. Rebels control 80% of the country and only the remaining 20% is in the hands of the government”.
So why was such an agreement signed? “The negotiation was imposed by the international community to save face” said Mgr. Aguirre. Those who gained an advantage are not the citizens of Central Africa but “the rebels, all the radicalised or criminals and almost all non-Central Africans” armed by some Arab countries that in turn buy arms in the United States, says Mgr. Aguirrre. “All this happens with the complicity of the African Union and France”.
“The rebels are calling for an immunity decree applicable to all (even if the International Criminal Court will not take it into account) and the office of Prime Minister, with the sole aim of dividing the country in two. Even if they already control 80% of the mines of diamonds, gold, cobalt, mercury, they want more”, says the Bishop.
The poor inhabitants of Central Africa are paying the price. Mgr. Aguirre concludes by putting himself “in God’s hands to transform the hearts of the violent, no one must resume hostilities again and all must seek peace”.
The instability in the Central African Republic began in 2012 when the Seleka rebel group broke out, mainly composed by Muslims, but also by mercenaries from neighbouring countries, and attacked the country.
In early 2013, the rebels conquered the capital Bangui, forcing President François Bozizé to seek refuge in Cameroon. The conflict seemed to cease when the anti-Balaka militias opposed the Seleka rebels. This led to clashes throughout the territory that gradually turned into clashes between armed gangs, not so much for ideological reasons, but to control and loot local communities.
Not even Pope Francis’ visit, who opened the Holy Year 2015 in Bangui, succeeded in appeasing the clashes that, according to the latest Amnesty International report, have caused thousands of deaths and forced 538,000 people to take refuge in neighbouring Chad , Cameroon, DR Congo and Congo and 601,000 to leave their homes to seek refuge in the quieter provinces of Central Africa.
At least 2.4 million Central Africans depend on humanitarian aid and 1.4 million are in conditions of food insecurity.