About 100 people have been killed in the Central African Republic (CAR), barely 24 hours after a peace deal brokered by the Rome-based Catholic organization, the Sant’Egidio Community, was signed in Rome.
The five-page agreement states that the militias will have representation in the political offices in exchange for cease fire and removal of blockades.
The militia will also be drafted into the armed forces. “We commit to the immediate implementation by political-military groups of a country-wide ceasefire, to be monitored by the international community, as a fundamental step on the way to definitive peace,” the agreement states.
“The government undertakes to ensure military groups are represented at all levels” and are “recognised as part of the reconstruction efforts”, the signed deal says.
The militia, on their part, pledged to ensure “the free movement of people and goods by removing illegal barriers as an immediate consequence of the ceasefire.”
The agreement, which comes after several negotiations and agreements in the past have failed, was applauded by some observers as an important step towards a lasting peace in the country’s war which broke out since 2013.
All but one of the 14 factions signed the agreement. The one militia who couldn’t attend the signing said it will honour the agreement.
Charles Armel Doubane, Foreign Affairs Minister and signatory to the accord for CAR said, “For us this has been a crucial agreement for the reconciling future of the country, for a future of peace in Central African Republic,”
The agreement has, however, been criticized because, “it would be a matter of amnesty for the criminals, of integrating them into a future government, in other words total impunity,” an observer told Barnabas Fund [www.barnabasfund.org], a relief agency for the persecuted church.
“They signed this document in the context of serious violence that is continuing in the east of the country,” said Lewis Mudge, African Researcher at Human Rights Watch.
An analyst also expressed his anxiety with the agreement to Barnabas Fund: “I’m bit skeptical because this is not the first and will not be the last as such. People are treating the consequences of the crisis and not the causes. Everyone is looking for its own advantage and interest.”
He continued, “The situation is explosive in the interior of the country. It’s almost religious war going on, as people are chased and been killed in mosques or church.
“It was reported… Wednesday, that many churches are still being burned down and Christians are fleeing into bushes. We fear to see this happen here in Bangui, and so in line with this, there is a crucial meeting next Friday among the 3 mains religions”
Barely a day after the signing of the agreement, violence erupted in Bria, north east of the capital Bangui, on Tuesday, 20 June. Mayor Maurice Balekouzou and others put the death toll at about 100, with several dozen wounded who were seeking treatment at the local hospital run by aid group Doctors Without Borders.
“Intense shooting started at 6am (Tuesday); by 9:30am, we had already received 35 wounded patients at the hospital,” Medicines Sans Frontier (MSF) said in a statement.
MSF reported “intense shooting” in the town, “the warring parties burned villages and neighbourhoods of Bria, forcing more of the population out with many fleeing into the bush,” local MP Arsene Kongbo told AFP.
Rev. Gildas Gbeni of St. Louis Catholic mission in Bria said, “For the moment, no one dares to go out as everything suggests that fighting can resume at any time.” He added that “witnesses coming from different neighborhoods say they have had to climb over dozens of bodies that now litter the ground.”
Witnesses said the fighting which erupted early Tuesday between the anti-Balaka militia and rebels from the group known as FPRC who were once part of the Seleka movement, witness atrocities and killings perpetuated by both the Anti-Balaka Christian Militia who were are killing Muslims in Bangassou, and the Muslim Selekas are burning all the supposedly Christian villages in Bria, Mobaye and many communities.
A witness said, “Today they burned the house of the CEBI pastor in Bria, and carried off three motorcycles belonging to the church… In the hinterland things are not getting any better. Muslims are hunted down and killed in mosques, and Christian villages are burnt down. Several pastors in the hinterland have already paid the price.”