This is a guest post by Thomas Zuber, intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in International Political Economy and Development at Fordham University.
In preparation for 2015 elections, Central African Republic (CAR) will hold a forum on the political future of the country in Bangui in January, as a follow-up to the July Brazzaville ceasefire. It will be instrumental in preparing for elections, which observers assume will not take place in February as initially foreseen, but will be postponed until the second half of the year. Despite a UN Peacekeeping Mission, MINUSCA, supporting stability in the country, the interim government remains fragile, with little control over large swathes of the North. Earlier this month, France announced a scaling down of its Operation “Sangaris,” which was instrumental in mitigating the violence experienced in the last year.
While violence in CAR has reduced significantly since its height in January 2014, the July ceasefire remains shaky at best. Despite these challenges, there are signs of hope.
In light of the upcoming Forum for National Reconciliation, former armed groups have mobilized to enter the political arena—party names ring with an ideal of reconciliation. In the last three months, three political entities have developed among the former Seleka, or “coalition” in the north. One of them, the Rassemblement pour la reconciliation des Centrafricains (RPRC), or “Gathering for Reconciliation among Central Africans” has reached out to the other two forces in order to present a unified front come January. While the quest for unity is positive, internal division among the Seleka has the potential to perpetuate tensions. Similarly, the “anti-Balaka” or “anti-machete,” the main group responsible for carrying out reprisal attacks earlier this year, has also expressed its interest in becoming a political party, Central African Party for Unity and Development (PCUD). The fighters have declared they would lay down their arms to enter into politics. A nominal move to party building and reconciliation from both sides may prove positive as 2015 approaches.
Most recently, reconciliation and justice in CAR for the violence perpetuated in recent years has also been the focus of international bodies. Former president Djotodia is one of seven people the UN seeks to sanction, freezing assets, for his role during the 2012-2013 violence. He is criticized for being a significant hindrance to the Brazzaville peace talks and for spurring partisans against the transitional government. This renewed scrutiny could prove useful in stabilizing the country until January’s National Reconciliation Forum.
The role of the forum should bring all major parties to the table for the first time since July. There has already been strong debates over the electoral code in the last week, notably about the question of biometric voting, which is deemed too expensive by the transitional government. Despite internal discord among and between the parties involved, interest in and scrutiny of the 2015 electoral process may provide a silver lining to the recent turmoil that has besieged Central African Republic in recent years.