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 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.
Violence mounted in west and centre, while security situation continued to improve in north east. In west, armed group Return, Reclamation et Rehabilitation (3R) continued to step up attacks against UN mission (MINUSCA) in Nana-Mambéré prefecture. 3R 5 July threatened to render region ‘‘ungovernable’’ if MINUSCA does not withdraw, prompting thousands to flee and several NGOs to put their operations on hold in following days. 3R anti-tank mine 8 July damaged MINUSCA vehicle near Baboua, also Niem-Besson axis, in first explosive device incident in country since 2014; in following days, MINUSCA discovered several IEDs in area. 3R elements 13 July clashed with MINUSCA troops in Gedze village, killing blue helmet and injuring two others. In centre, armed group violence continued; notably, clash between Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) and anti-Balaka elements 12 July left three civilians and one UPC member dead in Zangba village, Basse-Koto prefecture. Ethnic Goula armed group Party for the Reunification of the Central African Nation (PRNC) 22 July killed at least two ethnic Sara civilians in Bougnoul Niakania village, Haute-Kotto prefecture; in alleged reprisal, Sara assailants next day killed ethnic Goula in Bornou village; PRNC next day attacked Bornou, leaving at least ten Sara dead and 20 wounded. In north east, first phase of Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration program ended 9 July, with 348 demobilised Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) combatants. Suspected PRNC 19 July killed three civilians in Krakoma village, Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture. National Council of Fulani Chiefs 14 July announced its support for President Touadéra’s candidacy in presidential election scheduled for Dec. In following days, opposition accused Touadéra of secretly holding talks with Fulani-dominated armed groups 3R and UPC to secure Fulani votes. Former President Bozizé 25 July said he would run for top office again in Dec. UN Security Council 28 July extended sanctions against CAR, including arms embargo, until 31 July 2021.
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.
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.