Central African Republic

Report says Chinese-run mines should be closed in CAR

A Central African Republic (CAR) parliamentary report has recommended that four Chinese-run gold mines be closed down because of health concerns and pollution.

BBC Newsday spoke to Father Aurelio Gazzera, an Italian Carmelite priest who works in the Bozoum region and has helped locals raise awareness of the health and environmental issues caused by the mines. He has taken photos and videos and written about it in his blog.

He said people living near the Ouham river had been drinking and washing in the river, which had been infected by chemicals used at the mines, including mercury and cyanide.

Infant mortality had increased since mining started, the priest said.

Father Gazzera also said that since workers from elsewhere had arrived in the area, there had been an increase in cases of local women being raped, along with prostitution.

He said local people were "very happy" that the mines could be closed.

A broken rive on a river
Father Aurelio Gazzera
A bridge which Father Gazzera says has been damaged by vehicles working for a Chinese-run mine

Central African Republic report calls for closure of four Chinese gold mines

It says the pollution produced in the affected area is threatening public health
Four Chinese-run gold mines should be closed in the Central African Republic because the pollution they produce is threatening public health, says a local parliamentary report. Newsday's David Whitty spoke to the Italian priest - Father Aurelio Gazzera - who works near there and who's helped publicise the problem.

(Picture Artisanal gold miners working near  the deviated waterway of the heavily polluted Ouham river. Credit: Aurelio Gazzera)

Politics 'root cause' of Ebola, warns health official

Ebola health workers
Getty Images

A top health official has warned that although Ebola outbreaks can be controlled, the disease will keep returning until political stability is achieved in the region.

The outbreak can be stopped this time but "it may come back, because the system is weak," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebryesus, chief executive of the World Health Organization (WHO), who has just returned from a research visit to DR Congo and Uganda.

He said that despite vaccinating millions of people against measles, cholera and chikungunya, there are currently outbreaks of these diseases.

"When there is no peace and lack of securit,y the health condition of the people is the most affected," said Dr Tedros. "Unless we affect the root cause of the problem we won't have solutions."

He said the world should help DR Congo, the Central African Republic and other fragile countries find political solutions to their problems.

He also referred to Yemen, which didn't have an outbreak of cholera for many years, to the point that "they even forgot about it" but since civil war broke out there, the disease has returned, killing more than 2,500 people.

CAR warn 3R militia after attack

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Getty Images
The government agreed a peace deal with militias in February

The authorities in the Central African Republic have issued a warning to a militia suspected of killing at least 34 villagers earlier this week.

The 3R group, which represents the Fulani people, has been given 72 hours to give up those suspected of carrying out the attack, which is said to have been in retaliation for the killing of a person from the Fulani community.

The United Nations is sending patrols to secure the area.

The 3R militia is one of the 14 groups which signed a peace deal earlier this year, which now appears to be unravelling.

Dozens killed in Central African Republic - UN

More than 26 people have been killed in an attack by an armed group on two villages in the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country said.

The attack took place in the villages of Koundjili and Djoumjoum, the head of the mission, Mankeur Ndiaye, said in a tweet on Wednesday.

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The massacre is the single bloodiest incident since the government of CAR agreed a peace deal with 14 militia groups in February.

CAR was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when Muslim rebels from the Seleka umbrella group seized power in the majority-Christian country.

A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, rose up to counter the Seleka.

Thousands have been killed in the violence and more than one million internally displaced. An estimated 570,000 people have fled abroad.

CAR peace deal in trouble

Anti-Balaka combattants patrol in the parish of Gambo, southeastern Central African Republic
CAR has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960

A key peace deal to resolve the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is at risk of collapsing less than a month after it was agreed, news agency AFP reports.

Three militia groups which were among the 14 armed groups that signed the Khartoum Agreement with President Faustin-Archange Touadera, disagreed with the make-up of the new government announced on Sunday.

The Democratic Front of the Central African People (FPDC) said it had, "resolved purely and simply to withdraw from the peace process", adding that the government was "far from being inclusive".

Another large militia, the Patriotic Movement for Central Africa (MPC), citing the same reason, said it considered the accord was "void".

The militias were not happy that the central government held onto sensitive key posts, while six of the 14 armed groups obtained no post at all, AFP reports.

CAR has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960.

It was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when mainly Muslim rebels from the Seleka umbrella group seized power in the majority Christian country. A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, rose up to counter Seleka.

Seleka handed power to a transitional government in 2014 under international pressure but months of violence followed and the country was effectively partitioned, in spite of the presence of a UN peacekeeping force and a French mission.

The country is undergoing an internationally supervised transition involving a constitutional referendum as well as presidential and parliamentary elections.

Analysis: What does the CAR peace deal achieve?

President Faustin Touadera signed a peace deal with 14 rebel groups

Tomi Oladipo

BBC Africa security correspondent

Central African president Faustin-Archange Touadera (L) signs a peace deal next to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum on February 05, 2019.
Seven previous attempts at peace agreements have failed

It has not been smooth sailing. Only a few days into the talks – a fortnight ago – the prospect of peace was further threatened as the government rejected the rebels' demands for amnesty and inclusion in a new unity government.

The armed groups say immunity will encourage the laying down of arms but critics say the real aim is to avoid prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The chairman of the AU Commission Moussa Faki welcomed the agreement, saying he was happy for the people of the Central African Republic (see earlier post).

It is this population who have borne the brunt of the conflict, with an estimated 2.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

It is now likely that many of those who caused their predicament will not be held responsible.

Some elements of the anti-Balaka might also feel like they have not benefited as much, having been the only rebels publicly targeted so far by the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

The parties involved in this deal will have to work against a poor recent record in which there have been up to seven previous failed attempts at peace agreements since 2013.

The rebel groups still control large parts of the country and their presence is unlikely to be challenged now.

Opposition parties were not involved in the talks and they will move further down the political pecking order as the rebels get more involved in government.

Previous attempts by the AU to broker talks in Bangui, the capital of CAR, came to nothing.

While it worked with the UN as the mediators of this round of talks, the process in Khartoum was actually kick-started by Russia – which has been increasingly involved in the CAR in recent years.

Moscow has mining interests in the African nation and provides security for President Touadera.

Sudan, the host of the talks, will be hoping that the current success of the negotiations will improve its image, having been diplomatically and economically stranded for years.

CAR peace a 'spirit of reconciliation'

African Union: Central African Republic peace deal will last this time
In the Central African Republic there is a strong sense of hope that six years of fighting could be coming to an end. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict but a new peace deal between the government and 14 armed groups has now been agreed. It is expected to be signed on Tuesday in the capital Bangui. Smail Chergui, the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, helped negotiate the peace deal.

(Pic: Smail Chergui, AU commissioner for Peace and Security ; Credit: AFP)