Central African Republic: Keeping the Dialogue Alive

News and Press Release
Originally published
Nairobi/Brussels, 12 January 2010: If the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) fails to re-engage with the opposition on upcoming elections and negotiate with remaining rebels, its fragile peace process will be at serious risk.

CAR: Keeping the Dialogue Alive,* the latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the impact of the Inclusive Political Dialogue and the current challenges to a state that has lacked meaningful institutional capacity for some three decades. It argues that the unwillingness of President François Bozizé and his close circle to follow through with many of the concessions agreed on during the December 2008 talks risks exacerbating the country's conflicts and stalling national reconciliation.

"The president has balked at making changes that could weaken his control of the military and state resources", says Edward Dalby, Crisis Group Analyst. "Because of this intransigence, a year that could have seen significant progress on the reform agenda has been marked by more intense political confrontation and continued violence".

The Inclusive Political Dialogue made a valuable contribution to improving the CAR's political and security situation. The regime agreed to open up management of state affairs and allow others a say in organising elections scheduled for early 2010. A concrete set of agreements that included rebel disarmament and security sector reform was a welcome step towards greater stability. However, the political process has since then stalled. Bozizé has not allowed his adversaries to participate meaningfully in the government and resisted other governance reforms. Meanwhile, the delay in disarming rebel groups that have already signed peace agreements has allowed more armed groups to emerge.

The government must realise that the only feasible course of action is to negotiate with the remaining rebel group. If it continues to rely on force, the hard work that went into bringing the other groups to the table may have been in vain. Improved security across the national territory and the government's full cooperation with the UN electoral assistance team are both necessary conditions for credible elections.

Accelerated rural development is crucial for alleviating the humanitarian crisis and creating favourable conditions for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, as well as elections. Therefore, the UN Peacebuilding Commission should mobilise donors to support the European Commission's "development poles" program, which aims to stimulate income-generating activities and restore basic infrastructure around provincial towns. Donors should make clear to the the government that if it does not display clear commitment to credible elections, they will hold back the civil servant salaries that constitute one of Bozizé's strongest sources of popularity in the capital.

"Until the government respects the method of consensus in which the dialogue was held and makes genuine changes in governance, insecurity will hamper any efforts to establish state authority in the provinces", says Daniela Kroslak, Deputy Director of the Crisis Group Africa Program. "It must be made clear that the president's best interest is to allow his opponents greater involvement in state affairs and thereby reduce their temptation to take power by force".

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635

Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1602

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.