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.
Armed groups continued to cause insecurity in provinces and African Union (AU) and Russia brokered parallel talks among armed groups. Anti-balaka militants 2 Aug temporarily took control of Lioto village in Ouaka province in centre-south before ex-Seleka fighters pushed them back, 25 people reportedly killed. Unidentified assailants looted convoy of International Committee of the Red Cross 6km from Kaga-Bandoro in north 11 Aug. As part of AU mediation initiative, facilitators met representatives of fourteen armed groups for third time in Bouar in west 27-30 Aug to finalise joint demands. Russia organised parallel talks in Sudanese capital Khartoum 28 Aug at which main leaders of strongest armed groups signed preliminary agreement; they included anti-balaka leader Maxime Mokom and ex-Seleka leaders Nourredine Adam and Abdoulaye Hissene of Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC), Mahamat al-Khatim of Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC) and Ali Darass of Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC). After unidentified gunmen killed three Russian journalists investigating alleged presence of Wagner private military contractor 30 July, Russian govt said killers were “thieves” and denied any responsibility. EU 13 Aug said it had expanded its military training mission in CAR and extended it for two years until 19 Sept 2020; EU has also changed mission’s mandate so that, in addition to providing strategic advice to defence ministry, military personnel and armed forces, it can also advise presidency and interior ministry. U.S. handed over 48 of planned 57 military vehicles to army 6 Aug. China’s Poly Technologies handed over 70 vehicles to defence ministry 8 Aug. Russia and CAR signed military cooperation agreement near Moscow 21 Aug, which reportedly frames avenues of future cooperation, including opportunities to study in Russia.
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.
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
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