Beginning in late 2012, a rehabilitated coalition of ex-rebel militia fighters, known as Séléka, reignited conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) over what it believed was the central government’s failure to abide by the 2007 and 2011 peace agreements. Following more than two years of fighting between Séléka and Anti-Balaka militia groups, over a million people have been displaced and thousands killed. Currently, CAR is at a critical juncture, as the country and its international partners look to the upcoming Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation in February to support lasting peace and stability.
The Forum will bring together international donors, CAR’s transitional government, and political representatives from the warring militias to discuss CAR’s future; the discussion may also include participants form civil society. Six months after the July Brazzaville ceasefire, the forum marks the difficult transition from pressing and immediate relief efforts, to more long-term development and recovery. The central focus will be on ending the violence and reuniting the divided and conflict-stricken country. While elections will be at the forefront of discussion, the Forum would also benefit from a conversation about equitable, collaborative management of natural resources–as natural resources may offer a unique prospect for CAR’s successful transition out of cycles of conflict and sustainable peace in the broader region.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 40% of all intrastate conflicts in the last sixty years are connected to the exploitation of natural resources, and these resource-associated conflicts are twice as likely to relapse into conflict within the first five years of recovery. CAR is, unfortunately, no stranger to this trend. Countless studies over the last decade demonstrate that high-value natural resources such as diamonds, minerals, timber, and ivory fund progressively sophisticated rebel and terrorist networks across the African continent, incentivizing violence and instability.
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