Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on rebel groups in Central Africa. Part I examines recent moves toward peace and stability in Chad and the Central African Republic. Part II will examine ongoing instability in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On June 12, the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the country's last major rebel force, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, signed a peace agreement. The following day, mediators in Chad reached a peace deal with the Popular Front for Reconstruction, a rebel movement based in the CAR for the past three years. This agreement follows a year of deals and arrests that have progressively weakened Chadian rebel groups in eastern Chad and Sudan. For Chad and the CAR, peace and stability seem closer in 2011 than in 2008, when Chadian rebels battled government troops in the capital, N'Djamena, and armed groups terrorized northwestern CAR.
Chadian President Idriss Deby and CAR President Francois Bozizé both came to power in coups -- Deby in 1990 and Bozizé in 2003 -- and both have faced armed challenges to their rule in recent years. In Chad, eastern rebels and disgruntled former supporters of Deby launched major offensives in 2006 and 2008. This conflict was driven by domestic grievances over Deby's concentration of power and by political fallout from the war in Darfur. Chadian involvement in Darfur came about because some rebel movements there drew heavily from the Zaghawa ethnic group, to which Deby belongs. Senior figures in Deby's government pressured him to support these movements. Deteriorating relations between Deby and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir led to a proxy war as each president supported rebels against his rival. In the CAR, meanwhile, Bozizé battled rebellions (.pdf) led by partisans of Ange-Felix Patasse, the former president deposed in the 2003 coup, and by former coup participants angered over not receiving rewards Bozizé had promised them. Bozizé quelled some of these uprisings with help from Chad, but for several years violence devastated the northern part of the country. Refugees from Darfur also strained the CAR's government's limited resources.