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 between armed groups continued in north east, centre and south east, as President Touadéra sought to strengthen relations with Rwanda and Russia. In north east, clashes between armed groups Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) in Am-Dafock, Vakaga prefecture 14 Oct left 21 FPRC and three MLCJ dead. In centre, anti-balaka militants and armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) clashed in Tagbara, Ouaka prefecture 3 Oct leaving six combatants dead. Raids by unidentified gunmen in Basse-Kotto and Ouaka prefectures 8 and 10 Oct left at least a dozen civilians dead. In far south east in Haut-Mbomou prefecture near border with South Sudan, UPC 15 Oct invaded Bambouti; night of 25-26 Oct attacked NGO vehicle leaving at least four people missing; 27 Oct reportedly clashed with Fulani herders leaving seven UPC fighters and unknown number of Fulani dead. UN mission (MINUSCA) 16 Oct announced conclusion of first phase of operation against armed group Return, Restitution and Rehabilitation (3R) in west to force it to comply with Feb peace deal. Hundreds protested in capital Bangui 29 Oct calling for arrest of former National Assembly President Karim Meckassoua accusing him of involvement in armed group violence in PK5 district. Over 1,300 army recruits graduated from basic training 16-17 Oct; 1,023 trained by army and EU training mission, 343 by army and Russian trainers. In Bouar in west, President Touadéra 16 Oct launched training of over 500 future members of special mixed security units to comprise soldiers and former armed group members. Touadéra 15 Oct received Rwandan President Kagame and signed agreements aimed at strengthening military and economic cooperation. Touadéra 23-24 Oct attended Africa-Russia summit in Sochi, Russia and asked Russian President Putin to increase his military support to CAR; 25 Oct said he would consider establishment of Russian military base in CAR.
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.