Central African Republic: the most powerful armed group undertakes to leave the rebel coalition

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The most powerful armed group in the Central African Republic, a country in civil war for nearly eight years, has pledged to leave the rebel coalition which seeks to overthrow the regime of President Faustin Archange Touadéra. The Unit for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), mainly active in the east of the country where its members control numerous mineral deposits, is the best endowed group in the Central African Republic.

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“Army General Ali Darassa Mahamat and his officers undertake to withdraw from the coalition of patriots for change,” Ali Darassa wrote on Monday in a statement whose authenticity was confirmed to Agence France Presse ( AFP). He argued that “since the beginning of the electoral crisis, the population suffers bitterly from insecurity, health situation, famine and non-humanitarian assistance”.

The UPC, the statement continued, “reiterates its commitment to the Khartoum Accord process”, a peace agreement signed in February 2019 between the government and 14 armed groups, including the UPC.

Heavy fighting against pro-government forces

The Central African government, while it has said it is ready to engage in dialogue with the democratic opposition, for the time being excludes negotiating with “foreign mercenaries” members of armed groups, such as Ali Darassa, who is originally from Niger.

In December, the UPC joined the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), an alliance of armed groups that launched an offensive two weeks before the presidential election to prevent the re-election of President Touadéra, who was eventually returned to the resulting from a contested ballot. The armed group has participated in some of the most violent fighting against pro-government forces and peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic.

To read: In the Central African Republic, the Constitutional Court validates the re-election of President Touadéra

At the beginning of January, its operatives briefly seized the town of Bangassou, in the south-east of the country, and caused the death of two peacekeepers on January 18 in the vicinity of the city.

In February, the UPC was pushed out of Bambari, a city in the center of the country, after heavy fighting against pro-government forces. Since then, its members have been driven from most of their strongholds in the east of the country, and have mostly dispersed into the bush where they continue to fuel insecurity.

Increase in the number of peacekeepers

At the same time, Central African troops, assisted by some 12,000 peacekeepers from the UN peacekeeping force, but also by hundreds of Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries, launched a counteroffensive from the start. capital Bangui against the CPC, which freed most of the localities occupied by the rebels in December. The UN Security Council approved a resolution on March 12 providing for the gradual increase of 3,000 peacekeepers in Minusca.

The UPC, mostly made up of Fulani, came out of the split in 2014 of the Séléka, a coalition of predominantly Muslim armed groups that overthrew the regime of President François Bozizé in 2013, plunging the country into civil war.

Read more: “The Central Africans want to choose their leaders by the ballot box and not by arms”

Death of one of the most powerful leaders of the “3R” group

This UPC statement comes a few days after the announcement on April 2 of the death of Sidiki Abass, accused of war crimes and head of one of the most powerful armed groups, the “3R” group, for “Return, claim and rehabilitation ”, which joined the CPC in December.

Sidiki Abass, whose real name is Bi Sidi Souleymane, was one of the main leaders of armed groups in the Central African Republic. The 3R movement, made up mostly of Fulani, was originally formed to defend this community of nomadic herders in the north-west of the Central African Republic, where conflicts with sedentary peasants are recurrent.

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