September 1, 2012:
Finally, after a decade of mayhem and several attempts at working out a peace deal, all the rebels in The Central African Republic (CAR) have agreed to stop fighting and disarm. The last group of rebels, the CPJP recently joined four other rebel groups that had made peace four years ago. In 2009, the government began a three year program to demobilize up to 10,000 rebels and turn them into productive (or at least less violent) civilians again. At the same time, negotiations, and some fighting, continued with CPJP.
This was not without problems. For example, when rebels first arrived at a demobilization center near the Chad and Sudan border three years ago, tribal animosities led to renewed fighting. The Kara tribesmen arriving at the center began shooting at Goula tribesmen. Both groups belonged to the UFDR rebels, but the Goula backed the peace deal, while some in the smaller Kara tribes did not. UN peacekeepers and still armed UFDR rebels drove off the Kara, killing 25 of them. Several dozen people, including civilians caught in the crossfire, died. But order was restored and the rebels kept arriving at the demobilization centers. The demobilization process is based on similar efforts, elsewhere in Africa, that have worked before.
Four years ago the government worked out a peace deal with the two major rebel groups: the APRD (Popular Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy) and the UFDR (Union of Democratic Forces for Unity). Both the government and France saw that deal as a major step forward. The negotiations had been fostered by France and the United Nations.
One big problem for the rebels was the amnesty agreement the government proposed. The APRD demanded a general amnesty and release of prisoners. They also wanted former rebels, who were not guilty of war crimes, offered jobs in the CAR Army. But the government did not want a lot of ex-rebels in the army. Eventually a compromise was worked out.
The UN was very enthusiastic about achieving peace in the CAR because they did not want fighting in Chad and Sudan to expand into CAR. Back then, the CAR's northern and north-eastern areas continued to be used by Chadian and Sudanese rebel groups as a route for moving personnel and equipment. While the APRD and the UFDR have been fighting an "intermittent insurgency" since 2003, the struggle had degenerated into banditry and tribal feuding. By 2008 the rebel militias were devoting more of their time to fighting bandits, especially the ones coming from Chad and Sudan (who saw the chaotic situation in CAR as an opportunity).
In other parts of the CAR, rebel groups took a bit longer to make peace and continued to skirmish with each other and what passed for government security forces. But with the two largest rebel groups out of action, it was only a matter of time before the three smaller groups came to terms. This year, the last of them did. While this peace is more the result of exhaustion and the promise of foreign aid, you take what you can get at the corner of no and where.