Prospects & Promises for Reintegration in the Central African Republic

The case of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) in the Central African Republic (CAR) seems like a promising, well thought out program until applied. However, there have been numerous flaws and bumps in the road – for a program, until somewhat recently, was still underway. The initial DDR process seemed credible. However, funding shortfalls and on January 12, 2012 arrest of a prominent rebel leader put the brakes on the DDR process, the active phase of which began in August 2011. Problems lie both within the process of the program and the severe lack of stability in the state. The initial purpose of the program is to contribute to the stabilization and development of CAR, promoting economic recovery and social cohesion. Controlling the several rebel groups that hold power across the north and northeast of the CAR is both a key component of the country’s security reform and a prerequisite for the economic development needed to end the spiral of armed conflict and criminality that wrecks havoc in the state. CAR state security forces have little presence outside the capital, Bangui. Much of the north of the country is under the control of armed groups or criminal gangs. The lack of security has displaced over 170,000 people, devastated basic infrastructure and stifled economic development, and agricultural production. CAR is cursed by weak national institutions, poverty, corruption, and human rights violations.
In April 2009, the UN agreed to give support to the DDR process based on the Libreville Agreement of 2008. The agreement was successful under the conditions that there would be adherence to the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) and an accountable, transparent fiduciary mechanism. Unfortunately, this was not achieved. By 2011, a DD program was launched with the UN as the default manager. Later that year, a national reintegration strategy was implemented for DDR but it was never endorsed or funded by the CAR government. By December, BINUCA initiated a 2.4 million USD proposal for the case that would help steer the program to more successes in the short-term reinsertion process. By 2012, the UN was accepting contributions from the EU to help sustain DD programs (2.8 million Euro). UN personnel correctly  assessed that the current conditions in the CAR did not allow for a DDR process – UNDP shifted its focus on a Community Protection approach. Strategic objectives were set for 2013-2015 including community protection, and resilience, and community based reinsertion of eligible ex-combatants to hometowns.
Many aspects of the DDR program in CAR made it nearly impossible for DDR to function successfully. A huge constraint was the lack of available resources for the financial capacity. Funding for the DDR process in CAR never seems to be enough to establish long-term sustainability. Another major constraint is the political nature of the situation; the state’s and the strategies of the program. In order to allow the process to function successfully, there must be trust among all parties, making transparency of all agencies the key.
Because of such an unstable environment, the DDR process in CAR is stalled. Things need to be slowed down and taken from a smaller approach. After the coup d’etat that ousted the current president, recovery efforts for DDR seem unlikely; the crucial concerns are that of humanitarian aid and access to those in need.

Jerilyn Scutieri

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  1. Central African Republic – Roadblocks to Successful DDR

    Despite the optimism that surrounded the 2008 Libreville Agreement in CAR, UN engagement in the country between 2009-2011 largely failed to create sustainable disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. As a result, violence and government instability has persisted, particularly in the north of the country. In 2013, the Séléka rebellion reached Bangui and overthrew President Bozizé. In the following years, conflict between the Séléka and Anti-Balaka resulted in further destabilization of CAR and a rise in the number of IDPs and refugees fleeing to neighboring countries like Chad and Mozambique.

    Successful DDR and peacekeeping in CAR has been made difficult by the number of armed groups operating in the country. These groups include foreign armed groups such as the LRA operating within CAR territory. Furthermore, the government in Bangui lacks authority across large parts of the country and remains unable to provide many essential services or even security for its citizens. This lack of security has led to a proliferation of armed militias across the country as well as a concerningly high number of illegal weapons that, in many cases, are the only means communities have to protect themselves, making sustainable disarmament difficult. The state of development in CAR also remains incredibly low, poverty is widespread, and financial and material resources are lacking.

    For these reasons, among others, DDR (at least following the existing paradigm) is infeasible. The preconditions for successful DDR were not in place at the time of UN engagement in 2009, and the situation has not improved since then. The conflict lacks a sustainable peace agreement and even if such an agreement were to exist, the situation across much of CAR would make the risk of “spoilers” an issue. A lasting peace agreement would be contingent on successful development, community engagement, civil society engagement, de-centralization of government, etc. As DDR policies outlined in the IDDRS are most applicable in a post-conflict situation, a successful peacekeeping agreement is a necessary precondition. It is also necessary to keep in mind the regional context, and address the continuing instability caused by foreign armed groups and other regional conflicts that “spill over” into CAR.

    Good governance should be a central component of any development program at both the local and national level. At the moment the fact that the government in Bangui is unable to extend its authority to large portions of the country makes the potential for successful DDR highly unlikely. Faith in the government also needs to be improved so the population will not turned to armed groups for security or services. Building trust towards the government can take a considerable amount of time.

    Finally, the incentives provided by reintegration need to clearly outweigh the incentives to rearm and remobilize. Like many conflict-ridden societies, instability has become normalized in CAR going back to its independence from France over forty years ago. When the years of instability and violence largely overshadow the years of democracy, peacekeeping and DDR face not only significant operational and logistical challenges, but the challenge of changing norms and the structural causes of ongoing violence.

    Colby Silver

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