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 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.
Violence erupted in capital Bangui leaving at least 51 dead and fighting between armed groups intensified in provinces especially in north east, where looming fight for provincial capital Birao could see worse violence in Jan. In Bangui’s PK5 neighbourhood, traders 24-28 Dec clashed with militia over latter’s demand for informal taxes, leaving at least 51 dead and several dozen injured. In far north east, armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) 16 Dec launched attack against armed group Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) capturing Am-Dafock on border with Sudan; fighting reportedly left several dozen combatants dead. FPRC 18 Dec ambushed MLCJ reinforcements en route from Birao, capital of Vakaga prefecture leaving at least 59 dead in Bihera. FPRC continued to prepare offensive to recapture Birao. In centre, unidentified assailants 3 Dec killed a Fulani near Bambari, Ouaka prefecture; Fulani-dominated armed group Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) held anti-balaka militia and security forces responsible. UPC 15 Dec attacked security forces in Ippy. In east, clashes between anti-balaka and FPRC in Bria, Haute-Kotto prefecture 5-10 Dec caused unknown number of casualties. In west, tensions rose in Bouar after soldier 1 Dec stabbed to death civilian; in Baboua communal skirmishes killed two people 28 and 31 Dec. Despite govt ban, party of former President Bozizé, Kwa Na Kwa (KNK), held rally in Bangui. KNK 16 Dec announced that Bozizé, in exile since his 2013 ouster, had returned to Bangui. EU 9 Dec formally established EU Advisory Mission in the Central African Republic (EUAM RCA) to support reform of internal security forces including police and gendarmerie; mission set to launch in mid-2020. International Criminal Court 11 Dec confirmed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against former anti-balaka leaders Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona.
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.