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C. Africa: 14 armed groups for one poor country

2 min 5Approximate reading time

The Central African Republic's government and 14 militias that hold sway over most of the country inked a peace agreement in Khartoum Tuesday -- the eighth since violence broke out in 2012.

Armed groups hold territory of varying sizes, seized since a 2013 coup that ousted president Francois Bozize and plunged the country in a deep and prolonged crisis.

In all, the armed groups control about 80 percent of the CAR.

The armed forces and a UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, work to prevent daily violence. With some 11,650 troops and 2,080 police deployed, according to the United Nations, MINUSCA's top priority is to protect civilians.

The largely Muslim Seleka ("alliance") coalition that toppled General Bozize was officially dissolved in 2013.

Two former Seleka self-proclaimed generals have since formed influential movements: the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC) and the Unity for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC).

- Powerful groups from Seleka -

The FPRC is led politically by Noureddine Adam, while Abdoulaye Hissene is the military chief. Both men are under UN sanctions. The force is based in the far north of the CAR, including the towns of Birao and Ndele, but its influence extends southwards via Kaga Bandoro to Bria, a central region rich in mineral resources.

Commanded by Ali Darassa, the UPC is based in the heart of the country, at Alindao and Bambari. The group battled the FPRC for control of central CAR until October 2017, when they signed a pact to cease hostilities and became allies.

A third former Seleka general retains considerable influence: Mahamat Al-Khatim, a native of neighbouring Chad who in 2015 founded the Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC).

Allied with both the FPRC and the UPC, the MPC is based at Kabo and along the Chadian border in the north.

- Scattered anti-Balaka forces -

The "anti-Balaka" militia groups that emerged in largely Christian communities as a response to the capture of Bangui by Seleka forces declared that their main role was "self-defence".

Today, these militias are divided into two branches.

One is led by Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a former "coordinator" of armed groups, who retains influence though he was transferred early in January to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ngaissona is considered close to Bozize, who is living in exile.

The other branch of anti-Balaka forces is led by Maxime Mokom, who is under US sanctions and formed an alliance with former Seleka groups in 2015, signing an alliance in Nairobi.

This opportunistic pact gave the two parties control over a large swathe of territory and also included the armed Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of the Central African Republic (RPRC), a small group based at Bria in diamond country.

- On the cattle trails -

In the west and northwest, armed groups with a few hundred fighters at most are installed along the routes taken by cattle herders on seasonal migrations across the borders of Chad and Cameroon.

They include the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) movement created in 2016 by Abass Sidiki in the Nana-Mambete district.

The groups Revolution justice (RJ) and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) led by ex-Seleka officer Ahmat Bahar, are also active in the zone, rich in gold and diamonds, together with the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FPDC).

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