UNITED NATIONS – A half dozen armed groups in Central African Republic are participating in a national program and the government will begin disarming some groups in the west by the end of the year, the U.N. envoy for the troubled African country said Tuesday.
Parfait Onanga-Anyanga's announcement on disarmament efforts was part of his upbeat report to the Security Council that highlighted "a very important" new African peace initiative to try to bring peace to the impoverished country.
Central African Republic has seen deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital and mainly Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back, resulting in thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. A period of relative peace followed in late 2015 and 2016, but violence since then has intensified and spread.
Onanga-Anyanga said that while the current situation remains "unpredictable and precarious," he believes the foundations that have been laid "can help bring about sustainable peace" to the country.
He stressed that "the path towards peace and reconciliation will not be an easy one," citing the many peace processes that have failed there.
"We in the international community must work with the government of Central African Republic to ensure that this peace process is people-centered and does not fail," Onanga-Anyanga said. "We must be patient, we must be realistic, and we must put in place the critical conditions that will give the African Initiative the greatest chance to succeed."
He said the international community must ensure that the parties enter negotiations "in good faith and with a true commitment to the dialogue and its outcomes."
He stressed that to sustain peace and transform Central African Republic, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there must help the government "strengthen the rule of law and eliminate ungoverned spaces in the country" and work with its people "to promote a culture of democracy."
The mission must also support the government's fight against impunity and restore the rule of law through the new Special Criminal Court, Onanga-Anyanga said. And it must redouble efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to 2.9 million needy people, more than half of them children.