Africa in the News – CAR/DRC: no let up in Central Africa

A beleaguered Francois Bozize is still hanging on to power in the Central African Republic.

Weekly News and Analysis from the RAS

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CAR/DRC: no let up in Central Africa

Happy New Year! This is more than can be said for the embattled President of the Central African Republic (CAR), Francois Bozizé, whose government is currently facing a rebel advance, only recently halted 50 miles short of the capital, Bangui. The rebels, calling themselves ‘Séléka’ (alliance), are a coalition of groups, all claiming that Bozizé has not honoured the terms of previous peace agreements in 2007 and 2008.

As has become familiar pattern across the continent over the last year, (see Mali, DRC), the national army was unable to hold back a well-organised rebel advance (Bozize promptly sacked his defence minister and army chief of staff). The President has however been able to call upon his friends, notably President Idris Deby of Chad – a long-time backer – to shore up his creaking armed forces with several 100 troops. Uganda has also said that it would be willing to contribute troops should an African Union force be assembled.

Western powers, particularly France, have been notably anti-interventionist in their rhetoric. President Hollande stated: “If we have a presence, it’s not to protect a regime, it’s to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country…Those days are over.”

In neighbouring DRC peace talks between the government and rebel ‘M23’ group are on a knife edge in Kampala, capital of Uganda. M23 leaders are demanding that Joseph Kabila’s government sign a ceasefire before they commence formal dialogue.

Jason Stearns has written an excellent piece on the failure of the UN in Congo. He argues that whilst the peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) appeared somewhat useless when it nervously watched the M23 enter Goma, it was actually a failure to get to grips with the political process of the peace deal (well before the latest violence), which put it in its current impossible situation.

Finally, Israeli (DRC-based) mining magnate Dan Gertler is causing controversy again as the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation’s (ENRC) biggest shareholder – Kazakhmys – abstained over a deal to buy out Gertler’s share in the DRC arm of the business. Gertler is accused of buying off Congo’s natural resources on the cheap due to a close personal relationship with President Kabila.

The Guardian reports that Daniel Balint-Kurti, a representative of anti-corruption group Global Witness, said: “I think you are laying yourself open to the gravest of corruption risks with this…whatever the legalities of it, it is completely morally wrong to rip off one of the poorest countries in the world in such a blatant fashion.”

For more like this visit www.africanarguments.org

Written by Magnus Taylor – mt74@soas.ac.uk

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