The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a violent takeover of power in 2013. The aftermath saw armed groups conclude a multitude of peace agreements even as they continued to fight each other and launch attacks on the civilian population. The latest agreement, sponsored by the African Union and signed in February 2019 by the government and fourteen armed groups, raised hopes of peace. The violence has not stopped, however, and political tensions are again on the rise. Through on-the-ground reporting and advocacy, Crisis Group provides concrete advice on how to navigate both the critical electoral period in late 2020 and the long term, focusing on how to persuade armed groups to lay down their weapons.
President Touadéra moved closer to holding constitutional referendum in 2023, rebel groups continued to step up attacks in hinterlands, and anti-French sentiment ran high.
Touadéra enacted referendum law ahead of local elections. Touadéra 6 Feb enacted referendum bill passed by parliament in Dec 2022, raising concern he will pair local elections (scheduled for July and Oct) with constitutional referendum that could allow him to run for third term in 2025. Meanwhile, UN mission in CAR 14 Feb announced agreement with govt to secure local elections.
Rebels’ advance continued in north east, use of explosives spread in north west. In Vakaga prefecture (north east), Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels 14 Feb attacked army base in Sikikédé locality, leaving at least three soldiers dead, four injured and another 20 held hostage; CPC retreated with hostages after army and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 23 Feb retook locality. North-western prefectures saw series of explosive-related incidents in Feb. Notably in Ouham-Pendé, improvised explosive devices 6 Feb killed two soldiers and one civilian near Ndim locality, and 10 Feb seriously injured five civilians near Bozoum town.
Disinformation campaign and violent attacks targeted French companies. After Wagner Group in Jan opened brewery in country, media campaign from late Jan targeted French-owned local brewery MOCAF, accusing it of financing rebel group Union for Peace in CAR; pro-govt youth platform and one minister reportedly involved in campaign. Trade ministry 2 Feb condemned violent demonstrations against MOCAF held 19-20 Jan in capital Bangui. Meanwhile, unidentified individuals 3 Feb threw grenades at two petrol stations owned by French company TotalEnergies in Bangui.
In other important developments. Touadéra and Chadian Transitional President Mahamat Idriss Déby 9 Feb met in Angola’s capital Luanda to discuss increasing activities of armed groups along shared border; leaders reportedly agreed to work together to address security issues (see Chad). UN independent expert on human rights Yao Agbetse 20 Feb accused govt forces and allies of committing “arbitrary arrests and detentions, violations of the right to life” in last quarter of 2022.
Some [armed groups in the Central African Republic] currently think that the fight between Russia and Ukraine may distract Russian Wagner forces and allow them to come ba...
One could now say that the government [of the Central African Republic] is no longer on the back foot or the defensive position and has launched an offensive [against the...
[The blockade of Bangui in the Central African Republic was] a deliberate tactic to strangle the capital economically, to force the government to the negotiating table.
Au lieu de réconcilier les Centrafricains, les élections présidentielle et législatives ont, en effet, davantage polarisé le paysage politique et la société centrafricain...
It seems likely that [the rebels’] intention is to cause trouble and to push the United Nations to defend Bangui, therefore leaving provincial towns vulnerable.
If the elections are not conducted very well, they have the potential to spoil even the very little stability that the [Central Africa Republic] has got.
Disbanded in 2013, today the Central African army is present throughout the country. But structural problems could weaken it once again. To avoid a downward spiral, Bangui and its international partners should apply the principles laid out in the 2017 National Defence Plan.
Russia has become the Central African Republic’s preferred ally in its battle with insurgents. But the government’s use of Russian mercenaries as it goes on the offensive is causing domestic divisions and alienating other external partners. Concerns about rights abuses and misinformation campaigns are mounting.
The risk of an entrenched political and security crisis remains high in the Central African Republic following December’s contested elections. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU and France to press the government and opposition to halt heated rhetoric and nudge the many parties toward talks.
The Central African Republic is beset with fresh violence days before voting slated for 27 December. If the election is to go forward, and the country to avoid further turmoil, neighbouring heads of state will need to help rival politicians strike a deal.
In the Central African Republic, the smooth conduct of the December 2020 elections will be essential for the country's stability. The government and opposition should ease tensions, international partners should support credible elections and regional actors should encourage armed groups to abstain from violence during the electoral period.
A February 2019 agreement is the latest in a string of attempts to bring peace to the Central African Republic. Will it hold? Crisis Group expert Hans de Marie Heungoup goes to the country to find out, along with photographer Julie David de Lossy.
A deal to end six years of war in the Central African Republic could come unglued if not strengthened. The government should hold signatory armed groups accountable to criteria for improved behaviour and back local peace initiatives. Neighbours should push armed groups to cease provocations.
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