Yesterday, nominally Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and nominally Christian members of so-called anti-balaka groups in the Bimbo area of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic declared a truce. The announcement came in a public ceremony that saw members of the two factions put down their weapons, embrace each other, and ask for forgiveness and reconciliation. The agreement reportedly came after mediation between the two sides by French forces. It is clearly events like this that led CAR’s new interim leader, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, to declare today that the country’s recent crisis is now over.
There is no guarantee, however, that this will be the case. The country’s Transitional National Council has been given two weeks to decide on a new interim president, who will lead the country until elections can be held. Nguendet is the speaker of this assembly, which is also the assembly that voted on Michel Djotodia as interim president last April. Djotodia was the leader of the Seleka rebel group who violently ousted President Francois Bozize in March 2013. His inability to control former militants was likely the most significant reason for the most recent explosion of violence. Djotodia resigned the presidency last week following a recent meeting of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) regional bloc. Reports followed that Djotodia then left for exile in Benin. Bozize has also since gone into self-imposed exile. The TNC says it will be looking for a unifying figure.
It remains to be seen if one can be found. In addition, the current constitution bars the person selected from standing in future presidential elections, which CAR is currently planning for early 2015, despite calls from the French and others to hold them before the end of this year. The United Nations, which has given a formal mandate to French forces and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), has also warned about the long term threat of inter-communal violence in the country. Inter-communal tensions were one of the root causes of the overthrow of Bozize, who had made a deal with the Seleka rebel movement, which the rebels subsequently said was not honored. Peacekeepers, who have already had a checkered record in this crisis, are likely to remain in the country for the foreseeable future. The UN estimates over two million people are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the crisis and almost one million of them have been driven from their homes.