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.
In 2018, the African Union (AU) and its new Assembly Chairperson President Paul Kagame of Rwanda have the chance to push ahead with much-needed institutional reforms. But the AU must not lose focus on dire conflicts and defusing potential electoral violence.
Clashes between armed groups and international and national forces increased, including in capital Bangui, which could provoke further violence in May. UN mission (MINUSCA) patrol 1 April exchanged fire with armed group in PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui. Two joint MINUSCA and army operations to arrest or dislodge head of main local militia in PK5, known as “General Force”, failed 8 and 10 April, 32 people including one peacekeeper killed and 145 wounded; MINUSCA began negotiations with group close to General Force. Ex-Seleka factions assembled in Kaga Bandoro in north late April raising fears of attack on Bangui, MINUSCA deployed to Sibut in centre and govt sent Russian soldiers to talk with rebels 28 April. In centre, anti-balaka militants attacked temporary MINUSCA base at Tagbara near Bambari 2 April killing one peacekeeper, at least 22 anti-balaka also killed. In south east, Ugandan-led militia Lord’s Resistance Army attacked Koubou village near Obo 2 April, MINUSCA and national troops responded, freeing some fifteen abducted civilians. In west, MINUSCA clashed with recently created armed group known as Siriri between Berberati and Gamboula 22 April, unknown number of militants killed. Côte d’Ivoire 24 April said it would send 450 peacekeepers to Central African Republic without specifying date.
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.
As the Central African Republic (CAR) stares into an abyss of potentially appalling proportions, the international community must focus on the quickest, most decisive means of restoring security to its population.
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.