By William Tucker
Chief Correspondent for In Homeland Security
A ceasefire has been signed in Congo-Brazzaville by the more prominent armed militant groups in the Central African Republic sparking hopes that this most recent religious conflict will finally come to an end.
Though the agreement was signed between Muslim Seleka rebels and the largely Christian anti-Balaka militia, there are other, smaller factions that are likely to continue engaging in violence. CAR has been fraught with instability since its inception with several coups and lengthy bouts of violence concerning some observers that the ceasefire may simply be symbolic.
The continuing violence in the southern town of Bambari exemplifies this, but signers of the ceasefire have pledged to arrest anyone who violates the agreement. This is certainly a well meaning pledge; however implementation of rule of law is difficult enough without the added burden of including the protocols of the ceasefire. Unfortunately, the short-term answer to halting the violence has been to segregate the populations.
In Bambari, Christians, whether affiliated with the anti-Balaka movement or not, have been holed up in a makeshift camp outside the city. Muslims in other areas of the country have been forced into a similar existence, and in many cases, are experiencing far worse. French peacekeepers have been working in CAR for some time now, and while the troops have helped make a difference in some regards they remain small in number and distrusted by the locals.
Essentially, the situation in CAR remains difficult, and will likely remain so for the time being, but the ceasefire as signed by the belligerents in this year long conflict is a good sign that peace is desired. Keeping the smaller factions and individuals dedicated to violence in check, however, will be the real test in the short term.