Diplomatic efforts from all sides frame the situation in the Central African Republic and Chad. France would have invited itself to the debate by putting Chad in the front line. Will the efforts of ECCAS be enough to ease tensions?
Unable to regain his influence in the Central African Republic (CAR), France intervened in several ways. Initially, French diplomats politically supported the opponent and former president François Bozizé. Next, a french spy, close to Bozizé, was arrested in Bangui. Since then, a standoff between France and Russia has been played out in the CAR. However, Russian military efficiency alongside the Central African army had dispelled the doubts of the populations on the diplomatic choices of Faustin-Archange Touadéra. The Central African President is popular and the State begins to take back the territories under the control of the insurrection of the CPC of François Bozizé.
On the other hand Chad is more divided vis-à-vis the president of the CMT, Mahamat Déby. Demonstrations roam the streets of Chad, denouncing its relations with France. And on the sidelines of this socio-political crisis, a diplomatic incident between Chad and CAR took place. Militiamen fired at a FACA patrol and took refuge in Chadian territory. This caused a deadly clash between Chadian and Central African forces.
The heads of state of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) therefore gathered in Brazzaville. They discussed both the Chadian political crisis and relations between Chad and the CAR. Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has pledged to support appeasement in Chad. And the Community called for restraint between Chad and the CAR.
Extract from the speech of the President of the Republic, President in office of ECCAS at the conference on the situation in Chad. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/Wo1R8Vwv7e
- Presidency of the Republic (@PR_Congo) June 4, 2021
Happy are the peacemakers, between Chad and the Central African Republic
The ECCAS meeting was marked by the absence of Mahamat Déby. However, his Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacké met Central African President Touadéra behind closed doors. In view of Touadéra's statement after the summit, the talks would have led to a good conclusion. Indeed, Touadéra, Sassou-Nguesso, Lourenço and Félix Tshisekedi have announced that they will support the Chadian transition.
The report of the Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX) also brought together heads of state around a common position. COPAX underlined that Chad is going through a serious humanitarian crisis. And that the States of the region should come to its aid. On the side of the DRC, a remark emanated on his candidacy for the security council in competition with Gabon. However the point was not addressed.
The President of the Conference of Heads of State, Denis Sassou Nguesso insisted on the fact that "coming to the aid of the 5,5 million Chadians in need of urgent intervention would necessarily require political stability". He considers that Chad should reach a broad national agreement around the composition of the government of Padacké. ECCAS then unanimously adopted financial support in support of the Chadian transition. The Central African contribution to the dialogue has also been positive. No hostile statement came from the CAR delegation. It was mutual on the Chadian side.
Extract from the speech of the President of the Republic, President in office of ECCAS at the conference on the situation in Chad (2/2). pic.twitter.com/H0CKAHsGcy
- Presidency of the Republic (@PR_Congo) June 4, 2021
Is France trying to destabilize the Central African Republic?
On the other hand, on the French side, President Emmanuel Macron and his Minister of Foreign Affairs gave free rein to a flow of inflammatory statements. The French president affirmed that “the Central African president is hostage to his Russian advisers”. Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned "the attack by Central African and Russian forces against Chad".
A position that would not be shared by the stakeholders. If Chad had initially reacted by strengthening its military presence, Central African diplomacy has rightly accused François Bozizé of having fomented this "terrible misunderstanding". Nevertheless, after the meeting of Touadéra and Padacké in Brazzaville, tensions are clearly decreasing.
However, while the talks were taking place in Brazzaville, the UN and the European Union (EU) were in CAR. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Secretary General for United Nations Peace Operations and Charles Fries, from the General Secretariat of the EU, accompanied a delegation from ECCAS and the African Union (AU) to the Central African Republic.
After the interview of European diplomats with President Touadéra, the latter left for Brazzaville. Lacroix and Fries, they would have met Simplice Sarandji, former companion and minister of Touadéra, but who is currently siding with the opposition. The diplomats also met some pro-Bozizé politicians, taking advantage of Touadéra's trip to the Congo.
It should be remembered that Faustin-Archange Touadéra is highly popular in the Central African Republic. The political defeat of Bozizé, which led him to officially join the armed insurrection, results above all from this fact. It could therefore be that France seeks a legitimate replacement for François Bozizé, which would lean more for French interests. This factor would be, according to several analysts, a fact to be considered in mediation between Chad and CAR. As well as an important element in the Central African participation in the ECCAS initiative.