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The media are reporting about another outbreak of violence in the Central African Republic. A coalition of militants from various rebel groups is trying to disrupt elections scheduled for December 27. Democracy may fall victim to provocations and disinformation attempts, writes Candice Musungayi.
The failed attempts
On Saturday, 19 December, several armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) announced the creation of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC). Following this, a number of media and social networks reported that the armed groups were advancing towards the capital of Bangui.
However, as it turned out, the reports on the rebels’ success were exaggerated. MINUSCA UN peacekeeping spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said Sunday that “the situation is under control.”
CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra visited CAR Armed Forces troops on the front lines the night before and wished them a Merry Christmas.
The capital and much of the CAR remain under the control of the authorities. Moreover, on December 23, the UN announced that the town of Bambari, which had been taken under rebel control the day before, had been returned to the control of UN forces and CAR government troops.
“The armed groups have been pushed back into the bush,” Abdoulaziz Fall, spokesperson for the UN Mission in the Central African Republic declared.
The aim to disrupt elections
Bambari is located 380 km north-east from the capital of the Central African Republic and its capture by rebels would not have seriously affected the situation in the country. It has been seized by militants more than once before. In January 2019 it was the scene of Operation BEKPA 2 by the UN peacekeepers against UPC (Union for Peace in the Central African Republic) rebels. Nevertheless, there have been notable attempts in some media outlets to inflate the significance of the recent militant outbursts.
In particular, Africanews notes that militants have allegedly seized the “key city” and published an expert’s opinion on the need to negotiate with the militants.
In reality, the scale of the fighting is greatly exaggerated, although there are battles.
Most likely, the opposition groups in CAR, allied with the militants who have been terrorizing the country for years, are trying to inflate their own very modest successes in order to disrupt the upcoming elections. The goal is to whip up a media environment and create the appearance of instability in order to disrupt the upcoming electoral process.
The Coalition of Democratic Opposition (COD-2020) suggested postponing the general elections scheduled for December 27. The coalition was previously led by former president François Bozizé, whom the African government accuses of running a militia. Bozizé is under UN sanctions and has previously been accused in the CAR of “crimes against humanity and incitement of genocide.
Bozizé has also been accused of organizing militant attacks by MINUSCA.
L’ancien Président François Bozizé & plusieurs groupes armés ont lancé une série d’attaques.
🎙️« Ces attaques n’avaient qu’un seul but : empêcher la poursuite du processus électoral & la tenue des élections », a déclaré @ndiayemankeur, le chef d’@UN_CAR🇺🇳@UNPeacekeeping https://t.co/5h8rbBvtCv pic.twitter.com/QbIXH7lLCZ
— ONU Info (@ONUinfo) December 22, 2020
Elections as a step towards stability
The situation in the CAR began to degrade after the country’s Constitutional Court on December 3 withdrew Bozizé’s candidacy from elections. On December 4, Socrates Bozizé, the youngest son of the ex-president, was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to local media, the reason for his detention was his recruitment of mercenaries.
It is not difficult to suppose that the politician, who is under UN sanctions, is trying to return to power and prevent the elections, in which he was refused to participate.
However, the world community is now unanimously in favor of holding democratic elections before the end of the year. The G5+ group: France, Russia, the U.S., the EU and the World Bank have called on Bozizé and allied armed groups to lay down their arms, calling for elections to be held as scheduled.
UN Special Representative of the Secretary General in the CAR, Mankeur Ndiaye, said that if elections are not held, the country risks “entering a period of uncontrollable instability”.
At the same time, he assured that the UN will take all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of elections and “all the conditions are met for the elections to be held”.
The UN troops in the CAR have been mobilized. Additional peacekeepers have been deployed to the north-west of Bangui. “The Portuguese Contingent has taken up positions on different axes in Bossembele, blocking any advance southward by armed groups,” MINUSCA informs. The UN command says the measures taken are enough to “halt any progress towards Bangui or the control of strategic cities”. Integrated Election Security Plan is to be implemented by UNMISCA and the Defence and Security Forces of CAR.
The CAR also requested support from Rwanda and Russia to secure the elections.
Taking into account the positive experience of peacekeepers in confronting militants, there are all conditions for holding democratic elections in CAR. Security measures are being taken, and the country’s authorities and the world community have not succumbed to armed blackmail by the militants.
In order to ensure order, peace and the movement of the Central African Republic toward democracy, it is crucial to hold elections in CAR despite the threats. It is now the task of the entire international community and all responsible external players in the CAR. Otherwise, militant groups will feel they can blackmail the authorities further, which will result in the collapse of the existing state apparatus and another civil war and genocide, as the world has already seen in 2004-2007 and 2012-2016
In this case, the credibility of democratic institutions in a country that cannot recover from the wounds of civil war will be completely undermined.