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.
Rwanda has become a major player in the Central African Republic, helping the government fight insurgents, supporting state reforms and investing in numerous businesses. This engagement has rewards but also comes with risks. Bangui and Kigali should act now to minimise the latter.
Govt forces and allies continued to hunt down rebels in several regions, and authorities dismissed UN mission’s call for national dialogue.
Increased rebel activity prompted military to step up presence in hinterland. Between 100 and 150 govt troops 1 Nov deployed to Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture’s capital Ndélé, after around 120 unidentified armed men late Oct took control of nearby Miamani village, killing one soldier and forcing other soldiers and civilians to flee. In Ouham-Fafa prefecture, Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels 2 Nov claimed control of Sido town near Chadian border, with two soldiers and several civilians reportedly killed; military and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 5 Nov recaptured town, and Wagner plane on search mission in Ouham-Fafa 11 Nov briefly crossed into Chad, prompting N’Djamena to threaten defensive action; CPC 24 Nov once again attacked Sido before leaving next day. After govt and Wagner forces late Oct attacked Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC) armed group and killed about 20 fighters, MPC leader Mahamat Al-Khatim 3 Nov announced leaving CPC and reintegrating 2019 peace agreement with govt.
UN renewed mission’s mandate amid tensions over national dialogue proposal. After UN mission (MINUSCA) late Oct called for new dialogue between govt and both civilian and armed opposition, President Touadéra’s special adviser Fidèle Gouandjika 2 Nov dismissed proposal, claimed it was part of “genocidal plot” hatched by MINUSCA and France to destabilise country. Opposition and armed groups reacted cautiously to MINUSCA’s proposal, with some voicing concern that any such dialogue would legitimise Touadéra-sponsored constitutional referendum held in July. UN Security Council 15 Nov renewed MINUSCA’s mandate for one year until Nov 2024, demonstrating international community’s almost unanimous support for Touadéra despite authoritarian drift.
Intercommunal tensions flared in north west. Muslim trader 8 Nov attacked and killed non-Muslim man following land dispute in Paoua town, Lim-Pendé prefecture; in response, crowd next day set fire to over 20 Muslim houses.
In March 2013, Seleka rebels triggered a civil war in the Central African Republic. A decade later, strong domestic and international tensions raise concerns the country could face another violent power transfer. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Enrica Picco analyses the state of play.
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.
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.
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