Home | News    Wednesday 24 March 2004

CAR: report on the anticipated Sudanese peace accord

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BANGUI, Mar 24, 2004 (IRIN) — With the Sudanese peace talks now at an advanced stage, hope has been kindled in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) that some of Bangui’s woes, caused by fallout from the war across the 1,000-kilometre border, will soon be overcome.

Since the Sudanese conflict restarted in 1983 between the largely Arab north of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south, some 37,000 refugees have fled into the southeastern border area of CAR that has remained in a permanent state of insecurity.

Insecurity

During the dry season running from December through June the SPLA rebels, who control at least two-thirds of the CAR-Sudan border, infiltrate up to 200 km in eastern CAR, occupying towns and villages in their search for food and other commodities, Come Zoumara, the CAR’s presidential defence adviser, told IRIN on 12 March. He said certain parts of the CAR were still occupied in November 2003.

However, all this promises to change, especially with the security agreement signed in September 2003 between the government in Khartoum and the SPLM and their wealth-sharing deal of 8 January. Moreover, after Khartoum gave the CAR government military vehicles its troops have been able to reach Bangouti, 1,500 km east of the capital, after two years of occupation by John Garang’s SPLM force, Gen Antoine Gambi, the CAR army chief of staff, said on 13 March during a debate on state-owned Television Centrafricaine.

"If a peace accord was signed, these incursions and poaching would end," Hamis Hagar Zat, adviser at the Sudanese embassy in Bangui, told IRIN.

He said that soon after the signing of the anticipated Sudanese peace agreement, the Border Protection Accord of 1982 between CAR and Sudan would apply on the southern part of the common border. The accord is being implemented along one-third of the northern border that is under Khartoum government control.

Boost for trade

Sudan’s 21-year-old war relegated the easternmost part of the CAR to abject poverty and underdevelopment but, Zat said, if peace were to be restored in southern Sudan people on both sides of the border would be able to trade and develop their regions. In addition, under a climate of peace, Bangui and Khartoum would be able to invoke their 1967 trade accord and rebuild or repair roads linking both countries.

The accord would facilitate the opening of more markets to the Far East by shipping goods through Port Sudan on the Red Sea, Charles Doubane, the presidential diplomatic adviser, told IRIN on 13 March.

Presently, CAR relies on the western seaports of Douala in Cameroon, which is barely accessible during the rainy season, and of Pointe-Noire in neighbouring Republic of the Congo, which is also difficult to access even during the dry season.

Refugees

Sudan’s many wars has resulted in at least 37,000 refugees who first came in the 1960s and then in the 1980s and stayed in Camp Mboki, 1,050 km east of Bangui. With a peace accord signed by the government and the SPLA, most of these people would most likely return home.

In anticipation of this, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reopened its office in Mboki in February to inform people and organise voluntary repatriation.

"The decision to reopen the UNHCR office was motivated by the progress made in negotiations between the rebels and the [Sudanese] government," Jean-Richard Fabomy, the UNHCR’s roving field officer, told IRIN on 4 February.

He said that the repatriation programme would most likely start in July and be carried out jointly with the Sudanese government.

However, because people both sides of the border are of the same ethnic groups and often intermarry, those Sudanese born in the CAR may decide to settle in the CAR as they qualify for citizenship, Doubane said.

Demobilisation

The CAR government has just embarked on a US $13-million disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration (DDR) programme for former fighters after eight years of repeated uprisings. But for the DDR programme to be more effective, Zoumara, who is also CAR’s focal point for the World Bank-supported programme, said, "It would be an excellent idea to start the DDR programmes in the two countries at the same time."

This is because Sudanese rebels could surrender weapons in the CAR so as to benefit from the DDR programme, especially since it would be difficult to distinguish between people from the Zande, Krech, Ndogo and Banda (Balanda in Sudan) groups of both countries.

The implementation of DDR programmes in the CAR and the Sudan would greatly improve the chances of success for the anticipated Sudanese peace accord.

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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