Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a violent takeover of power in 2013. The aftermath saw widespread violence as armed militia fought each other and took revenge on the population. The March 2016 election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra brought an initial lull, but was followed by more fighting in late 2016 and early 2017 between armed groups including ex-Seleka factions and anti-balaka militias – both controlling vast areas of the country. Lasting peace is still some way off as neither the new government nor the large UN force have the means to force armed groups to negotiate and disarm. Crisis Group works to reduce the risk of large flare-ups and help defuse the country’s many conflicts, encouraging international actors to work to weaken armed groups and improve the chances of effective negotiation.
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.
Armed groups violence decreased in north east but intensified in west, while attacks on NGOs increased in centre. In north east, attacks by armed groups eased following late May-early June joint operation by UN mission (MINUSCA) and armed forces around Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture’s capital Ndélé and govt 5 June deployment of police forces to support troops in area. Prominent Sudanese Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, under International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for 15 years, reportedly surrendered to CAR authorities in north-eastern Vakaga prefecture’s capital Birao 7 June and was transferred to ICC next day. Violence increased in west after armed group Return, Restitution and Rehabilitation (3R) 5 June suspended participation in Feb 2019 peace agreement. 3R elements 9 June launched several attacks in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, notably against base of special mixed security units – comprising demobilised armed group members and soldiers – near city of Bouar, national army-UN checkpoint in Pougol village, and security forces outside Baoro village, reportedly leaving several injured. 3R leader Sidiki Abbas 11 June denied attacks and accused govt of “orchestrating chaos to justify postponement of [presidential and legislative] elections scheduled for Dec”. After MINUSCA and military 17 June launched joint counter-offensive in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, 3R elements 21 June allegedly ambushed joint MINUSCA and national army convoy near Besson town, killing five soldiers. MINUSCA and 3R reportedly clashed 29-30 June in Koui locality, Ouham-Pendé prefecture, death toll unknown. In centre north, NGOs 25 May-8 June suffered multiple attacks between Batangafo town in Ouham prefecture and Kaga-Bandoro town in Nana-Gribizi prefecture. In centre, anti-Balaka Ayoloma group 3-16 June carried out at least ten attacks on NGOs and UN vehicles on Grimari-Sibut axis in Ouaka and Kemo prefectures. Also in centre, armed group Patriotic Movement for Central Africa 11 June kidnapped several Fulani herders and stole livestock in Kemo prefecture. Constitutional Court 5 June rejected govt’s project to amend Constitution to enable extension of President Touadéra and MPs’ terms in case Dec elections are postponed due to COVID-19.
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.
Resurgent armed groups in Central African Republic are killing many civilians and causing widespread displacement. Government forces and the UN are in a weak position, and there are no quick solutions. To contain the violence, the government and international actors must agree on a roadmap for peace with armed groups that combines both incentives and coercive measures.
In Central African Republic, the conflict between armed groups is now compounded by a conflict between armed communities. The roadmap to end the crisis including elections late 2015 presents only a short-term answer and risks exacerbating existing tensions. The transitional authorities and their international partners must address crucial issues by implementing a comprehensive disarmament policy and reaffirming that Muslims belong within the nation.
Away from the international spotlight, the Central African Republic’s rural areas are turning into fields of violence as war over territory and livestock hits a highly vulnerable population, with effects increasingly felt in neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.
To stabilise the Central African Republic (CAR), the transitional government and its international partners need to prioritise, alongside security, action to fight corruption and trafficking of natural resources, as well as revive the economy.
Sensible, inclusive regulation of pastoralism that has mitigated tension in parts of the Sahel should be extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflicts have worsened with the southward expansion of pastoralism.
Russia is intensifying its relationships in Africa and [the Central African Republic] is one of their entry points. The government is weak so it’s an easy target.
International mobilization [in the Central African Republic] is much, much slower than the deterioration of the situation on the ground.
The main risk [of the escalating violence in Central African Republic] is really to come back to a conflict like it was in 2013, very close to a kind of civil war.
There is a risk that the process of negotiation [in the Central African Republic] around disarmament becomes bogged down and justice, including through the Special Criminal Court, accelerates.
Against the supposed Christian versus Muslim logic of this conflict [in the Central African Republic], we now see Muslim groups fighting Muslim groups, divided on ethnic lines and fighting for territory.
The U.N. Security Coucil approved a resolution to extend the mandate of the U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2018, also increasing the mission’s troop ceiling by 900. Richard Moncrieff, Project Director for Central Africa, states that the Central African Republic needs more than just troops to meet the country's security challenges.
Originally published in World Politics Review
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
En Centrafrique, le statu quo qui a suivi l'investiture du président Touadéra en mars 2016 est déjà remis en cause. Les tensions montent tandis que le blocage est total sur l’accord de désarmement, démobilisation et réinsertion, nœud gordien de la crise centrafricaine. Tout doit être mis en œuvre lors de la conférence des donateurs pour la Centrafrique, qui se déroule le 17 novembre à Bruxelles, pour éviter une nouvelle tentative de déstabilisation, voire un renversement du pouvoir.