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.
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.
Dispute persisted between pro-govt groups and opposition over constitutional referendum as authorities postponed local elections, and insecurity continued across country.
Constitutional revision process remained divisive. After ruling party late Oct called for constitutional referendum that would allow President Touadéra to run for third term, pro-govt movement Front Républicain 10 Nov addressed letter to Touadéra proposing 18 constitutional amendments. G-16 civil society coalition 1 Nov called for creation of “resistance council” against constitutional changes, while hundreds 5 Nov gathered in French capital Paris calling for Touadéra’s dismissal. Meanwhile, 16 opposition parties 18 Nov demanded guarantees that upcoming local and regional elections will not be combined with constitutional referendum, requested restructuring of National Electoral Authority (ANE), citing lack of neutrality. ANE 21 Nov postponed local and regional elections from 22 Jan to 16 July 2023 to allow for electoral roll’s revision.
MINUSCA’s mandate renewed amid tensions with France. Ahead of UN Security Council vote on renewal of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA), FM Sylvie Baïpo-Temon 7 Nov declared draft resolution failed to reflect Central Africans’ “aspirations”, criticised France’s role as penholder; around same day withdrew symbolic title of dean of diplomatic corps traditionally given to French ambassador to Bangui, citing latter’s “discourtesy” toward Touadéra. Security Council 14 Nov renewed MINUSCA’s mandate for one year following tense debates, with Russia, China and Gabon abstaining.
Insecurity continued countrywide, notably at border with Chad. Russian paramilitaries 4 Nov raided Union of Patriots for Change rebel post in Blakadja village (Nana-Gribizi prefecture), leaving one rebel dead and four injured. Coalition of Patriots for Change rebels 19 Nov clashed with govt forces and allies in Kouango city (Ouaka prefecture), death toll unknown. Kidnapping for ransom reported throughout month. Notably, 3R rebels 8 Nov kidnapped three miners at Kombo-Nana site (Nana-Mambéré prefecture), freeing them after payment; unidentified armed elements 11 Nov abducted one civil servant and two UN personnel near Ndiffa locality (Vakaga prefecture). Unidentified assailants 24 Nov killed MINUSCA peacekeeper in Obo town (Haut-Mbomou prefecture). Govt said plane coming from border country overnight 27-28 Nov bombed base where govt forces and Russian allies were stationed in Bossangoa town (Ouham prefecture) near Chadian border, threatened retaliation.
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.
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.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
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