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Central African Republic: Update. Warring parties in the Central African Republic agreed Friday to call a ceasefire and form a government of national unity under President Francois Bozize, with general elections planned in a year.

A coalition of three rebel groups known as Seleka, or the 'alliance' in the Sango language, took up arms in the lawless north of the mineral-rich but impoverished country on 10 December and swept south, stopping within striking distance of the capital, Bangui.

Comment: Apparently the prospect that the internal fight was becoming internationalized with foreign forces induced the rebels to agree to a ceasefire. The fighting is not ended because Bozize's failure to honor past promises to the rebels remains a primary motive for more fighting. Nevertheless, the practice of Africans solving African disputes is tonight's good news.

Mali: The French Foreign Ministry on 11 January instructed nonessential French citizens to leave Mali after Islamist rebels began an offensive into southern Mali with apparent aim of taking the capital, Bamako.

A Malian official said that French military personnel have arrived recently in Mali to help its military defend against an advance by radical Islamists. Colonel Abdrahmane Baby, a military operations adviser for the foreign affairs ministry, on Friday confirmed that French troops were in the country but gave no details about how many or what they were doing.

France will support Mali's request for military assistance to counter an offensive by Islamist rebels, French President Francois Hollande said on 11 January.

French and German military forces have deployed to Mali to prepare for an intervention against Islamist rebels there, Le Figaro reported. The Malian military is organizing a counteroffensive in the town of Konna, which rebels claimed to have seized on 10 January Radio France Internationale reported.

Comment: The obvious lesson is that the UN process is too slow to be useful when the hostile forces decide to move swiftly. Only individual states, or coalitions of states, have the resources to move swiftly to stabilize a deteriorating security situation and prevent the creation of a new al-Qaida base. This time it is France with German and US support.

Errata: The date in the first line of last night's Watch report should have been 10 January, vice 10 July.

End of NightWatch ###

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