Despite various significant events in the past few weeks, crises in both South Sudan and Central African Republic continue to fester. Both countries have continued to experience significant violence, even just this week, in spite of moves meant to promote peace and stability.
In South Sudan, rebels accused the government of violating a ceasefire signed in January by attacking their positions near Malakal in Upper Nile state. This is not the first time the rebels have accused the government of breaching the agreement, which is less than two weeks old. International monitors are supposed to be monitoring the ceasefire agreement on the ground. The allegations did come the day after Riek Machar, the defacto leader of the opposition to the government, formally announced the formation of a united resistance movement to bring various rebel factions together.
The ceasefire, brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, was intended to be the beginning to additional negotiations on ending the crisis that has displaced hundreds of thousands and killed an untold number. The UN has experienced significant difficulties in assessing the conflict and distributing aid in many areas, including Malakal. The allegations of ceasefire violations along with the intention of the South Sudanese government to pursue treason charges against seven individuals, have raised doubts about the viabaility of further negotiations. Among those charged with Treason are both Riek Machar and Taban Deng, who signed the IGAD-backed ceasefire on behalf of the rebels.
In Central African Republic, inter-communal violence also continues to rage, despite the recent appointment of a new president, who has vowed to work for peace and reconciliation, and a significant international peacekeeping presence. The United States has also threatened the possibility of sanctions against any who would prevent efforts to end the crisis there. As in South Sudan, the conflict has displaced a significant number of people, but it has been difficult to assess the true extent of the conflict or how many people have died as a result.
This week saw significant acts of violence in the capital Bangui, with soldiers reportedly participating in the lynching of a Muslim man by nominally Christian so-called anti-balaka militiamen. Today it was reported that another act of mob violence had claimed the life another Muslim man as he and other Muslim residents attempted to flee the capital. Newly appointed interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has repeatedly called for a stop to such acts of sectarian violence, but may have limited tools with which to stem it. The International Criminal Court announced today that in response to the growing evidence of both crimes against humanity and war crimes that it would be opening a preliminary examination in CAR.
CAR has a significant international peacekeeping presence as well, and UN and the African Union have sought to expand it further. However, peacekeepers have been criticized by the locals and others of being biased toward ex-Seleka fighters. Prior to the resignation of the previous interim President and former Seleka rebel leader Michel Djotodia, anti-balaka militia had also expressed their displeasure with the fact that international forces had not actively worked to oust him from power. Most recently, Human Rights Watch reported that researchers in CAR had seen Chadian peacekeapers escorting ex-Seleka rebel leaders from the capital, and expressed concerns that this might indicate collusion between the two entities. This had previously been reported with the even more worrisome detail that the fighters evacuated had subsequently gone missing. Regardless of their true intentions and affiliations, peacekeepers have had a difficult time in CAR quelling the violence.