Central African Republic: Sending the CAR Militias Home

Bangui — The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has said it wants to identify, disarm and demobilize the anti-balaka militias, many of whom are members of the army. A proposal to place some of them in camps before sending them home has met with scepticism from African Union and French military leaders.

“Some of these anti-balaka are ready to leave, and they have raised the problem of how they can go back to work in the fields,” Gaston Mackouzangda, minister in charge of the government secretariat and relations with institutions, told IRIN recently.

“They need transport, and they also need agricultural material, although not machetes. The government is discussing this and is willing to find a solution for them,” he added.

The anti-balaka (Sango for “machete-proof”, the term also means “bullet-proof” ) are self-defence units formed to counter the Seleka alliance of predominantly Muslim rebel groups which ousted President Francois Bozizé in March 2013. Widespread atrocities have been attributed to both groups. The anti-balaka stormed Bangui, in early December. Since then all but a few hundred of the 130,000 Muslims who once lived in the capital have fled.

One anti-balaka leader, Joachim Kokate, who now advises the new interim government, said of the group: “We are going to find a site where they can be grouped, and then send them on their way.”

“I can’t say how many they will be, but a registration is under way in each zone [of the capital],” he said.

Some kind of inducement may be required, judging by the sentiments of some anti-balaka now staying in rudimentary conditions in the outskirts of Bangui.

One man said he hoped for some kind of “recompense” for “liberating” Bangui from the Seleka.

“The Seleka killed my father and stole our 40 cattle,” he said. “That’s why I joined the anti-balaka. If the government could put us in a camp, and make a symbolic gesture towards us, I could go back to my farm.”

One of his comrades, who said the Seleka had disembowelled his pregnant sister, destroyed his house and stolen his canoe, suggested money for a new canoe and a fishing net might be a sufficient demobilization package.

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