More power-sharing in Africa?
Kenya’s power-sharing government was only born after weeks of election violence that killed 1,300 people. Zimbabwe’s power sharing agreement is yet to bear fruit as southern Africa’s former breadbasket crumbles into economic ruin.
So will power sharing in Central African Republic, where one of Africa’s most forgotten conflicts has been simmering for more than half a decade, fare any better?
After 10 days of United Nations-backed talks, President Francois Bozize, a former army chief who seized power in a 2003 coup, has agreed with rebel and opposition leaders, including the man he deposed, to form a consensus government to rule until the next scheduled presidential elections in 2010.
The stakes are high. Despite its mineral riches, which include diamonds and uranium, Central African Republic remains prostrated by poverty and languishes near the bottom of the U.N. human development index. The country and its people are scarred by fighting before, during and after the 2003 coup that included mass rapes — used as a weapon of war — torture and killings now being investigated by the International Criminal Court. Low-intensity northern insurgencies since then have driven tens of thousands of civilians into the bush as they flee rebel and bandit raids, and government army counter-attacks.
From Sudan in the east, gangs of poachers marauding over the border have decimated CAR’s historically rich wildlife of elephants and big game, which used to draw the world’s rich and famous on hunting trips. Some conservation groups have even turned to hiring South African mercenaries to try to curb the poachers. From the north and east, fierce Chadian and Sudanese fighters raid over the frontier, while feared highway bandits known locally as “zaraguinas” prey on travellers and villagers alike, even striking over the western border into Cameroon to rob and seize children for ransom from wealthy cattle-raising tribes.This year, Ugandan rebels of Joseph Kony’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army have sacked villages in the remote southeast corner of CAR.
Against this backdrop of endemic violence, can Central African Republic’s power-sharing initiative deliver lasting peace? Can the former enemies, President Bozize and the rebel warlords, “bury the hatchet of war” and deliver the long-suffering nation and its people from “Satan and his demons”, as former President Ange-Felix Patasse put it?
What do you think?