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Former child soldiers who were embroiled in the Central African Republic’s civil war have now become frontline aid workers in the country’s fight against COVID-19. As part of UNICEF’s WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) relief program, which began in 2015, the former soldiers are hired to provide safe drinking water by manually drilling wells and laying pipes. So far, they have installed wells for about 25,000 people, a critical service, especially during the pandemic.

 

The program offers a path to rehabilitation

 

Years of civil war devastated the Central African Republic’s already fragile healthcare system and left about half of the population dependent on humanitarian aid. For the child soldiers, the WASH program offers a path to rehabilitation; it has given them the opportunity to learn valuable skills and to earn a living. It helps to minimize the chances of them relapsing into fighting by joining one of about a dozen armed groups operating in the country.

 

A soldier stands guard as former Anti-Balaka child soldiers wait to be released from a camp in Batangafo, Central African Republic, on August 28, 2015. (Edouard Dropsy/AFP)
A soldier stands guard as former Anti-balaka child soldiers wait to be released from a camp in Batangafo, Central African Republic, on August 28, 2015. (Edouard Dropsy/AFP)

 

It also encourages communities to accept these former child soldiers back into their communities. Rejection is another motivating factor for recidivism, even though the country’s militias agreed in 2015 to free all child soldiers and end child recruitment.

 

 

Centre Afrique Soldiers
The Central African Republic is no stranger to mutinies and coups. In this photo from 1996, a group of Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) mutineers prepare for a day of talks with French troops.

 

Soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (Forces Armées Centrafricaines, or FACA) peacefully entered the rebel-held northeastern town of N’Délé on Wednesday, May 13, for the first time in eight years. They were greeted warmly by Abdoulaye Hissen Ramadan, the leader of the FPRC rebel faction, which had initially forced out government troops from the city at the beginning of the Central African Republic Civil War in 2012.

 

Senior government positions were offered to rebel leaders.

 

The peaceful reclamation of N’Délé is a major victory for the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic, signed on February 6, 2019, between the government and the fourteen principal rebel groups active in the conflict. Under the peace agreement, senior government positions were offered to rebel leaders to facilitate a power-sharing agreement ahead of presidential and legislative elections in December.

While the FPRC may be cooperating, however, other rebel leaders, such as Abdoulaye Miskine, head of the FDPC, have been placed under international sanctions by the UN Security Council for allegedly recruiting more troops after rejecting the government post offered to him.

 

 

Noureddine Adam
Noureddine Adam, leader of the Central African rebel group Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), photographed in Birao, Central African Republic, on December 20, 2017.

 

Noureddine Adam, leader of the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) rebel group, has once again called on Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada to grant influential government positions to his allies. He also requested clemency for arrested FPRC partisans, continuing a pattern of constant pressure on the prime minister.

 

Maintaining this peace deal has been akin to balancing a house of cards on a ball.

 

This is hardly new for Ngrebada, who has been forced to placate several rebel groups, granting them positions as ambassadors or ministers to form an “inclusive government” in keeping with requirements of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic (APPR-RCA). Maintaining this peace deal has been akin to balancing a house of cards on a ball, with multiple clashes between rebel groups leading to the death of dozens of people and the displacement of tens of thousands more since the APPR-RCA was signed in Khartoum, Sudan, on February 5, 2019.

Within the Central African Republic (CAR) government, Ngrebada is also hemmed in by “Russophile” apparatchiks who have sought to convince President Faustin Archange-Touadéra that Ngrebada poses a potential challenge in the December 2020 presidential election. This same Russian contingent also seeks to drive a wedge between the CAR government and the United Nations MINUSCA peacekeeping mission.

 

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok escaped unharmed when his armored motorcade was hit with an explosive and automatic gunfire in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on Monday, March 9. Hamdok was reportedly transported to hospital afterwards, but his chief of staff, Ali Bakhi, wrote on his Facebook page that neither the prime minister nor anyone else in the convoy suffered injuries.

 

Why It Matters

Sudan’s political stability remains precarious after mass civil protests forced the dictator Omar al-Bashir to relinquish power after thirty years, and a Transitional Military Council (TMC) was subsequently established to run the country as it prepares to transfer power to a civilian government in 2021. The attack on the prime minister could serve as a pretext to postpone elections or, worse, justify a reversion to a military dictatorship in the name of security. One of the chief members of the TMC is General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who presides over Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, a branch of the Sudanese military responsible for killing hundreds of protesters shortly after Bashir’s fall. Were Sudan to revert to military rule, General Dagalo would likely seize power, jeopardizing efforts to redress human rights violations such as the atrocities during the Darfur Genocide largely committed by the Janjaweed militias under his command.

 

https://www.france24.com/fr/20200309-le-premier-ministre-soudanais-abdallah-hamdok-échappe-à-un-attentat-à-khartoum

 

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