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Peace processes failing in Africa

2 April 20190 comments

Several peace initiatives across Africa have come under strain recently as conflict has broken out and political negotiations have stalled.

In the Central African Republic (CAR) there has been a fresh exodus of refugees after several armed militias rejected the president’s new cabinet as not representative enough, sparking fears of renewed fighting.

Most of the refugees have entered Cameroon where the UN refugee agency UNHCR is trying to care for them.

The government of Cameroon says hundreds of returning and new refugees have crossed over from the CAR since March 5, when armed groups blocked a road in the western CAR to show their dissatisfaction with a new cabinet formed by President Faustin Archange Touadera.

Only six of the 14 armed groups that signed a peace and national reconciliation accord in Khartoum in February are represented in the cabinet.

One group, the Central African People’s Democratic Front, accused the president of failing to comply with the Khartoum peace agreement, which they say requires an all-inclusive government with representatives from all armed groups that signed the deal.

The CAR has been wracked by fighting since rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize in March 2013.

The United Nations reported that in 2018, around 650,000 Central Africans were internally displaced and 546,000 were refugees in neighbouring countries, with more than 300,000 in Cameroon.

In South Sudan, a fragile peace deal signed in September brought a few months of calm as fighting stopped across the country.

But since the start of the year violence has escalated between government forces and groups who have refused to accept the agreement.

Reports of abductions, ambush, rape, the burning and looting of property, and the killing of civilians have risen the past two months.

Aid agencies say thousands of people are now displaced in the Central Equatoria region and a report by the South Sudan Civil Society Forum described the violence as a “war on civilians”.

Thousands more have fled across the border into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Increased violence is also preventing aid agencies accessing vulnerable people, with many hiding in forest areas and an estimated 23,000 people around the Central Equatoria town of Yei unreachable, according to the UN.

South Sudan is now the most dangerous country in the world for humanitarian workers and 20 per cent of security incidents against aid workers have occurred in Central Equatoria.

Across the country more than six million people face extreme hunger, 45,000 of which are at risk of starvation, according to a report released in February by the UN and South Sudanese government.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia thousands of Members of the Gedeo community who have lived in the south west of the country for decades have been targeted by armed gangs.

And a to-and-fro process of forced evictions by groups of armed men and government-pressured returns has left tens of thousands of ethnic Gedeos trapped in dire conditions in makeshift shelters across the region.

One report from the village of Gotiti said that an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 internally displaced people were living in overcrowded shelters without roofs and sanitation as the rainy season approached.

The Ethiopian government has not formally acknowledged Gotiti’s inhabitants as IDPs eligible for humanitarian aid while humanitarian workers in the area say food assistance for IDPs in several areas in the region has been blocked in a bid to force inhabitants to return.

The UN has reported that more than 1.4 million Ethiopians were forced from their homes in the first half of last year – the largest internal displacement anywhere in the world in 2018.

The displacement is a result of conflicts along ethnic lines and over land ownership which emerged across the country following the election of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the end of authoritarianism, which for decades had kept a lid on such tensions.

The policy of the federal government is that displaced households should be safely returned to the communities from which they were evicted.


Laurie Nowell 
AMES Australia Senior Journalist