Across the world it has been a rough few weeks. Libya has fallen further apart to the point of diplomatic evacuation from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and France. Israel and Hamas have fallen into another war that is disproportionately effecting civilians over soldiers from either side.
Syria experienced its two bloodiest days since the civil war began more than three years ago. A passenger jet was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard, including one of the world’s leading researchers on HIV and AIDS, Joep Lange.
Good news, however, has come from two seemingly unlikely sources. The Central African Republic and Mali. While the CAR’s warring sides signed a ceasefire agreement on Friday July 25th in the Republic of the Congo’s capital, Brazzaville, Mali’s government and Tuareg rebels agreed to a framework for negotiations to begin in mid August.
e have written much on the somewhat sectarian conflict that has spent more than a year ravaging the Central African Republic. After the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels sacked Bangui last year the reprisal attacks by predominantly Christian anti-Balaka militias have led some to call genocide and posit a future Central African Republic completely without Muslims.
The CAR’s interim President, Catherine Samba-Panza, will not be in attendance at the US-Africa Leaders Summit, the regional implications of the conflict will no doubt breed attention. Central Africans fleeing from the capital have already crossed the border into Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in droves.
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The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees reported that more than 357,000 Central Africans, the majority of whom were Muslim women and children, have left the country since the fighting began. Central Africa is no stranger to seemingly domestic conflicts spilling over borders due to refugees and mixed allegiances.
While the country has been dangerously lacking good news and hope over the last year and a half, the ceasefire provides an excellent opportunity for reconciliation.
In a statement, America’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, welcomed the ceasefire, stating that “For far too long, the violent upheaval in CAR has caused unimaginable suffering for millions of innocent men, women and children.
This cease-fire is a much-needed and encouraging first step in what remains our shared goal: restoring peace, security and economic stability to the people of CAR.”
The United Nations Security Council reiterated the goals espoused by Power, saying in a statement that “The…agreement is a first step in a wider political process in the Central African Republic of ensuring durable peace, respect for human rights, protection of civilians and the rule of law.”
The situation in Mali has been similarly discussed in great detail on AFK Insider. Tuareg rebels and radical Islamists used the fog of an attempted coup to capture the country’s North.
While the French intervened and returned the North to the control of the Bamako government, after the French exit Tuareg rebels moved quickly back into Kidal, setting up a shadow government.
Fighting between the Tuareg rebels and the Bamako government has taken place as recently as late May, leaving more than 50 members of Mali’s military dead.
This recent upshot in violence did not torpedo the chances for earnest negotiations between Bamako and the Tuaregs in Kidal. On May 23, just a few days after the violence, a ceasefire was signed that aimed to restart the peace talks between the two sides and just last week, after talks from July 16th to the 24th, the first round of such talks proved a remarkable success, concluding with “ the consensus adoption of a roadmap by the parties.”
Despite elation at the announcement of a ceasefire, Ambassador Power expressed realism on the history of ceasefires and frameworks for negotiation across the continent. She called ”…on all armed actors to respect the terms of the agreement and work with local and national authorities to achieve a meaningful and durable peace.”
While this statement was addressed to the agreement between sides in the Central African Republic, it could have been similarly written for an audience in Bamako.
Whether the ceasefire or the roadmap will hold is unclear, but the willingness to sit at a table and attempt to end the conflict is a tremendous step forward, something that cannot be said about all conflicts, including the civil war in the CAR’s neighbor, South Sudan.
This was acknowledged by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Abdoulaye Bathily, who released a statement saying “There is still a long way to go, but I’m convinced that the determination that has been shown during this forum and that has allowed us to make progress will lead us to our objective.”
The world has experienced a rough few weeks. The seemingly intractable conflicts in Mali and the Central African Republic took important steps forward towards a lasting peace and the end to prolonged suffering. This rare good news should not be overlooked.
Andrew Friedman is a human rights attorney and freelance consultant who works and writes on legal reform and constitutional law with an emphasis on Africa. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @AndrewBFriedman.