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Several hundred Sudan-based rebels entered country; fighting between armed groups on one hand, and govt forces and allies on the other, could escalate in coming weeks.
CAR and Sudan shut shared border citing security challenges. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Zéphirin Mamadou and Vice-Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 4-5 Jan announced closure of Central African Republic (CAR)-Sudan land border, with Hemedti warning Sudan-based rebels could seek to overthrow CAR President Touadéra (see Sudan). Sudanese troops in following days deployed to border areas, with some crossing into CAR and taking position near Birao town (Vakaga prefecture). Several hundred Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels 24 Jan reportedly entered CAR from Sudan near Sam-Ouandja town (Haute-Kotto prefecture). CPC rebels around 25 Jan clashed with govt forces and allied Russian private military company Wagner Group near Gordil (Vakaga).
Rebel groups reinforced presence around main towns in west. In Nana-Mambéré prefecture, CPC 21 and 24 Jan launched major attacks on army positions in Béloko and Besson towns, with several dead; unidentified gunmen 7 Jan attacked security forces in Yenga village near Bouar town, leaving two soldiers dead and one missing. In Mambéré-Kadei prefecture, 3R rebel group (which is part of CPC) 2 Jan attacked mining site near Abba town, killing one miner; 12 Jan killed one soldier and wounded another in raid on army positions in same area.
Constitutional Court cleared way for constitutional referendum. Constitutional Court 3 Jan validated nomination of Jean-Pierre Waboé as new court president to replace Danièle Darlan, whom Touadéra dismissed in Oct, but said Darlan’s dismissal was unconstitutional. Court 20 Jan also confirmed constitutionality of 28 Dec law on referendum procedures, paving way for Touadéra to hold constitutional referendum and potentially run for third term.
Humanitarian needs soared as financial crisis loomed. After Legislative Assembly 27 Dec voted 2023 budget forecasting deficit of over $67mn, govt 3 Jan increased price of fuel by 50%; deterioration of financial situation unfolds as international donors maintain suspension of budgetary aid. UN humanitarian office 18 Jan warned humanitarian situation in CAR is degrading with 50% of population now critically food-insecure.
Authorities and Russian allies accused France of perpetrating “terrorist” acts, and armed groups continued to launch violent attacks across country.
Tensions with France boiled over following incident at border with Chad. After airstrike late Nov reportedly targeted military camp in Bossangoa town (Ouham prefecture near Chadian border), head of pro-govt organisation National Network for Safeguarding the Gains of Peace, Patrick Andjida, 2 Dec accused France and domestic opposition of manoeuvring to destabilise country; Russian military representative Alexander Ivanov 13 Dec said Central African Republic was under “threat … from the outside” and accused “international community” of supporting rebels. As explosive package 16 Dec injured Dimitri Sytyi, head of Russian cultural centre in capital Bangui, Russian private military company Wagner Group owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, same day blamed attack on Paris, urged Moscow to declare France state sponsor of terrorism; France also 16 Dec denied allegation as “Russian propaganda”. Bangui 18 Dec denounced “terrorist attack” and launched investigation; 20 Dec claimed package was sent from Togo. Meanwhile, last contingent of French troops 15 Dec left country; Paris in June 2021 had suspended military cooperation with Bangui.
Security situation remained dire across country. Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebel groups continued to target civilians and military. Notably, Union for Peace in the Central African Republic 1 Dec launched attack on Bakouma town (Mbomou prefecture) which left seven civilians dead and six wounded. Unidentified CPC rebels 11-12 Dec targeted army positions in Lihoto and Bokolobo localities (Ouaka prefecture), with two civilians dead. Suspected 3R rebels overnight 23-24 Dec ambushed army patrol near Gallo locality (Nana-Mambéré prefecture), killing three soldiers. Armed forces 3-7 Dec reportedly arrested over 200 people, including many civilians, in search operations in towns of Paoua (Ouham-Pendé prefecture), Kaga Bandoro (Nana-Gribizi prefecture) and Bambari (Ouaka). In Haute-Kotto prefecture, govt forces and Wagner elements 12 Dec attacked CPC position at Kocho mine site, reportedly killing 36 rebels and capturing unknown number.
In other important developments. National Assembly 28 Dec adopted law regulating organisation of referendums in country. Opposition MP Joseph Bendounga same day said law would serve President Touadéra’s efforts to change constitution and run for third term.
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.
Face-off persisted between govt and Constitutional Court over proposed constitutional reform that would allow President Touadéra to run for third term; rebel groups continued to pose security threat in several regions.
Touadéra sacked top judge amid dispute over new constitution. Following Constitutional Court’s 23 Sept invalidation of presidential decrees creating constitutional drafting committee, civil service ministry 10 Oct decreed retirement from teaching positions, effective 31 Dec, of 40 civil servants including Constitutional Court President Danièle Darlan, claiming this would entail her leaving court. Darlan 19 Oct refused retirement, said she cannot be removed before end of mandate in 2024. Touadéra 24 Oct dismissed Darlan by presidential decree; Darlan 28 Oct rejected dismissal, said decree had no legal value. Meanwhile, pro-Touadéra civil society movements renewed calls for constitutional referendum. Notably, Republican Front-led demonstration 22 Oct reportedly gathered thousands in capital Bangui to demand Touadéra organise referendum within 30 days to endorse constitutional reform.
Violence at hands of 3R rebels and anti-balaka militias persisted notably in west. In Ouham-Pendé prefecture, UN mission vehicle 3 Oct hit explosive device likely planted by 3R rebel group near Koui bridge, leaving three peacekeepers dead; 3R rebels 19 Oct killed one civilian and injured six people, including two soldiers, in attack on armed forces position in Mann village. In Nana-Mambéré prefecture, 3R elements 13 Oct attacked Chinese-operated mining site in Ndiba Molé village, killing four including one soldier. Meanwhile, in Basse-Kotto prefecture, two anti-balaka militia factions 4-11 Oct fought over control of Ndjoukou village; clashes left at least ten killed, including three civilians.
Misseriya Arab-Sara tensions flared in north near border with Chad and Sudan. In Vakaga prefecture, suspected Misseriya Arab tribe individuals 5 Oct held up traders and injured one on Sikidébé-Chad axis; amid inter-community tensions since 14 Oct, suspected Misseriya Arabs 20-21 Oct reportedly kidnapped 13 ethnic Sara individuals in Matala village, 18km from Vakaga’s capital Birao. In Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, unidentified individuals 23 Oct killed three traders returning from Chad near Bangbali village, 6km from Bamingui-Bangoran’s capital Ndélé.
Violence continued in several regions, Constitutional Court blocked President Touadéra’s plans to amend constitution, and authorities sought to avert budgetary crisis.Insecurity persisted in Ouaka and Haute-Kotto prefectures, worsened in neighbouring Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture. In Ouaka, Russian paramilitary forces 4 Sept allegedly killed eight miners near Ndassima gold mine amid ban on gold trade in area since Russians started industrial exploitation of Ndassima in May 2021. In Haute-Kotto, rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) early Sept started regrouping around mining sites, leading to string of attacks; notably, CPC attack on Kpassoro village 13 Sept caused 500 people to flee to prefecture’s capital Bria. Despite late-Aug deployment of over 300 govt soldiers to deter rebel offensive in Bamingui-Bangoran, CPC 2 Sept attacked armed forces in Akroussoulback village, death toll unknown. Meanwhile, security forces continued arbitrary arrests, including of 40 people 12 Sept and of 90 others 22 Sept during search operations in capital Bangui’s third district.Touadéra’s constitutional change bid suffered setback. Presidential decree 12 Sept appointed members of committee responsible for drafting new constitution, which could allow Touadéra to run for third term. Constitutional Court 23 Sept blocked process following appeal by civil society G-16 coalition, ruling 12 Sept decree as well as 26 Aug decree establishing constitutional drafting committee “unconstitutional”. Pressure on court mounted in lead-up to decision, with hundreds of govt supporters 8-9 Sept demonstrating in front of courthouse, calling for court members’ resignation and issuing death threats against its president, Daniele Darlan.Govt took steps to address budgetary crisis. After late Aug voting to reduce state budget by 14%, National Assembly 1 Sept further compressed budget to compensate for suspension of international aid (to prevent it feeding Russian operations in country) and global economic downturn. Meanwhile, PM Félix Moloua 6 Sept created inter-ministerial committee to investigate irregularities in salary payments to state personnel, which were uncovered in Aug by audit of state personnel register.
Rebels kept up operations in rural areas and President Touadéra continued to move toward constitutional revision despite opposition. Rebels maintained attacks in hinterland despite govt forces and allies’ operations. In Ouham prefecture, presumed Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) elements 1 Aug killed three civilians and one gendarme travelling between Kabo and Moyenne-Sido localities; 6 Aug killed one soldier and injured another in Lady village. CPC-affiliated rebel group 3R 2-3 Aug launched attacks in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, killing six villagers near Baboua town. In Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, govt 8 Aug imposed night curfew in Ndélé town, fearing attack by CPC rebels coming from Nda town, 300km away in Vakaga prefecture; govt and Russian forces 15 Aug carried out joint operation in Nda after CPC elements were reported heading toward Ndélé. In Haute-Kotto prefecture, Rwandan peacekeepers 14 Aug arrived in Sam-Ouandja town, demanded CPC elements leave within 48 hours; rebels did not comply but no incidents reported. Govt troops 11 and 15 Aug arrested 30 people suspected of cooperating with rebels in Haute-Kotto’s capital Bria. Meanwhile, tensions persisted over Touadéra’s proposed constitutional revision, which could allow him to run for third term in next presidential election. Over 1,000 govt supporters 6 Aug demonstrated in capital Bangui in favour of constitutional referendum; pro-govt gatherings also reported in other cities. Constitutional Court 8 Aug rejected opposition’s petition against draft law on constitutional change, which govt adopted in July. In address to nation, Touadéra 12 Aug announced constitutional referendum, invoking “people’s aspirations”; 26 Aug signed decree setting up committee to draft new constitution, made up of 53 members mostly from ruling party. In response, Republican Bloc coalition of opposition parties and civil society organisations next day gathered hundreds in capital Bangui to denounce Touadéra’s “manipulation” and slide toward “dictatorship”; 31 Aug lodged petition with Constitutional Court against decree.
Govt forces and their Russian allies continued to fight rebel groups; controversy persisted over constitutional amendment which could pave way for President Touadéra’s third term; and country faced serious fuel shortages. In Basse-Kotto prefecture, govt forces and allies 3 July clashed with Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) in Dimbi town, leaving 25 dead including 23 CPC elements, one soldier and one civilian; CPC rebels 15 July captured Kembe town before leaving three days later. UN human rights office 25 July published two reports detailing serious human rights violations by pro-govt militia as well as CPC-affiliated armed groups since Dec 2020, including some possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Authorities banned demonstration scheduled by NGO Coordination of Civil Society Organisations for Peace for 1 July to protest constitutional amendment – currently being discussed in parliament – that would remove two-term presidential limit and pave way for Touadéra to run in next presidential election. Two pro-govt platforms 8 July led march in capital Bangui in support of constitutional revision. Lawyer Olivier Manguereka 12 July accused pro-govt platforms, including Galaxie Nationale, of inciting violence against opposition figures. Serious fuel shortages during month constrained delivery of humanitarian aid to 3mn people in need of assistance, and threatened to impact military operations against rebels. Meanwhile, after making bitcoin legal tender in April, Touadéra 3 July launched “Sango” crypto hub, said cryptocurrencies are key to tackling financial exclusion in country. “Sango” coin 25 July went on sale as national digital currency. UN Security Council 29 July voted to relax 2013 arms embargo against Bangui; govt had sought complete lifting of ban on sale or transfer of weapons and ammunition. International Criminal Court 28 July unsealed 2019 arrest warrant for former security minister and Seleka group leader, Mahamat Nouradine Adam, over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Civil society coalition spoke up against constitutional change which could pave way for President Touadéra’s third term; operations against rebel groups continued. New civil society coalition Groupe d’Action des Organisations de la Société Civile pour la Défense de la Constitution du 30 Mars 2016 (G-16) 8 June called on President Touadéra to drop bill (introduced in late May) proposing constitutional amendments; coalition – which includes civil society and other leading figures, such as Joseph Bindoumi, president of Central African League of Human Rights – expressed concerns about removal of two-term presidential limit, which could pave way for Touadéra’s third term. Former President François Bozizé, exiled in Chad since early 2021, 20 June published declaration calling for political transition without Touadéra. Meanwhile, fighting between govt forces and rebel groups continued. Notably, local youth 11 June formed self-defence group in Ndiki village (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, centre) and attacked rebel group Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC) elements in area, leaving two youth and two rebels dead. Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) rebels 23 June attacked army positions in Bakouma village (Mbomou prefecture, south east), leaving six rebels and one civilian dead. Govt forces and allied Russian paramilitary Wagner group continued abuses against civilians. Notably, in Ouaka prefecture (east), army and Wagner mercenaries 12 June set fire to mosque in Nguekpa village after CPC rebels took refuge there, killing four men and injuring two women; army 13-14 June killed 20 rebels and wounded 30, including civilians, in attack on CPC positions in Sébagoudé village. CPC elements 23 June attacked army position in Bakouma, Mbomou prefecture, which national forces subsequently repelled with support from UN mission in CAR (MINUSCA). UN humanitarian agency 1 June reported increase in security incidents targeting humanitarian workers, with 69 incidents since Jan 2022; MINUSCA head Valentine Rugwabiza 22 June highlighted CAR’s unstable security situation and condemned “violence against opposition leaders” in address to UN Security Council. Internationally, PM Félix Moloua 14 June travelled to Russia for Saint-Petersburg Economic Forum to strengthen cooperation with Russia, including in mining sector.
Violence between armed forces and rebel groups continued to run high, state of public finances raised alarm, and Bangui adopted Bitcoin as legal currency. Confrontations between army and armed groups continued at high intensity. Notably, army 8 May murdered civil servant and member of Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic (FPRC) rebel group and clashed with gunmen, leaving three dead in Ndélé town (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, centre). Clashes between army and rebel Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) 9 May left 14 dead including civilian in Bokolobo municipality (Ouaka prefecture, east), 12 May killed at least one soldier and six UPC rebels in Bokolobo (Ouaka). UPC leader 13 May claimed army, Wagner mercenaries and anti-balaka militia 9 May killed over 30 Fulani civilians in Bokolobo municipality (Ouaka). National army suffered significant losses this month. Two deadly clashes with UPC and FPRC killed five soldiers 11 May in Ouadda (Haute-Kotto) and eight soldiers 21 May in Nzako (Mbomou prefecture, south east). NGO Human Rights Watch 3 May published report accusing armed forces and Russian paramilitary of “serious human rights abuses” since 2019. Finance minister 3 May announced 40-60% cuts in ministerial budgets, citing alarming state of public finances; concerns mounted that govt may not be able to pay civil servants’ and military personnel’s salaries as early as July 2022 (with Jan 2023 tipping point), which could trigger social uprisings and lead soldiers to rise up or join rebellion. After Bangui’s 26 April adoption of Bitcoin as legal currency alongside CFA franc, Economic Monetary Community of Central Africa 6 May reminded that the use of cryptocurrencies is banned. Food security in CAR remained of concern throughout month after Cameroon late April suspended all exportations of key consumable goods, including rice, wheat flour and cereals. Parliamentary majority 26 May presented draft bill amending constitution to allow number of presidential mandates to go beyond two terms, paving way for third term for President Touadéra. Bangui’s Criminal Court 16-17 May held trial hearing against 82 members of Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebel coalition, including Gen Ludovic Ngaifei (former armed forces chief of staff) and Dieudonné Ndomaté (former minister and leader of anti-balaka faction); authorities 27 May acquitted Ndomaté, along with fifteen co-defendants.
Rebels continued deadly attacks outside capital Bangui, govt forces and Russian paramilitary faced more accusations of serious crimes, and intercommunal violence rose in west and centre. Rebel groups launched attacks across country. Notably, Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic (FPRC) rebel group 1-2 April attacked villages in Bakouma sub-prefecture (Mbomou prefecture, south east), leaving at least five civilians dead; Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebel coalition allegedly attacked NGO personnel in Basse-Koto prefecture (east), injuring four 7 April and another two 9 April; and 3R rebel group 16 April and 19 April clashed with govt forces and Wagner paramilitaries in Amada-Gaza sub-prefecture (Mambéré-Kadéï prefecture, east), causing ten deaths among rebels according to local authorities. Meanwhile, Bangui 4 April rejected accusations made by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet late March of human rights violations, including torture and sexual violence, by security forces and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group, claimed report was meant to tarnish military’s image. Security forces and Wagner personnel 11-12 April reportedly killed over ten civilians in Gordil and Ndah villages (Vakaga prefecture, east); UN mission (MINUSCA) 16 April launched investigation into incident. Video allegedly showing soldiers torturing and executing man which had surfaced on social media in Jan, mid-month prompted outcry among opposition and human rights groups, while govt denounced smearing campaign. Communal violence spiked during month. Notably, herders 2 April attacked Samoh village (Ouham prefecture, centre), reportedly in retaliation for cattle theft, leaving five dead; clashes between Fulani herders (supported by 3R group) and local tradesmen early April left six dead in Gadzi sub-prefecture (Mambéré-Kadéï, south west); and anti-balaka militia attack on Fulani herders 8-10 April reportedly left around ten dead in Zawa village (Nana-Mambéré, west). Political tensions stayed high after March dialogue, as govt supporters continued to call for constitutional revision to allow third presidential term; notably online petition by Héritier Doneng, sports minister’s chief of staff and head of Republican Front movement, 20 April reportedly reached 400,034 signatures. First audience of hybrid Special Criminal Court mandated with adjudicating serious crimes committed in country since 2003, postponed 19 April to 25 April after defence lawyers failed to show up; later delayed to 16 May.
National dialogue held despite opposition’s boycott, pro-Russia protesters gathered during month following Ukraine war, and low-level violence persisted, notably in west and north. President Touadéra 15 March announced long-awaited national dialogue would take place 21-27 March, however said armed groups would not participate; in response, opposition 20 March declined invitation, citing armed group’s exclusion and failure to include electoral transparency in agenda. Dialogue 27 March ended, producing 600 recommendations, notably proposing end of embargo on firearms, without clear implementation calendar. National electoral agency mid-month announced municipal elections planned for Sept 2022 would be delayed due to lack of funds. Central African Republic (CAR) and 16 other African countries 2 march abstained from UN General Assembly vote condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine. CAR population showed support for Russia throughout month; notably, pro-Russia protesters 5 March gathered in capital Bangui and videos emerged during month of CAR soldiers announcing will to fight in Ukraine. Ukraine war also raised fears Russian paramilitary Wagner Group might reduce its presence in CAR; there was however no indication they had done so by end of month. Farmer-herder tensions 9 March led to clash in Koré village (Ouham-Pendé prefecture, west), leaving one dead and another wounded. Low-level violence between govt forces and rebels persisted during month: notably, govt forces 18 March clashed with Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) in Bouca town (Ouham-Fafa prefecture, north) and 22 March with 3R rebel group in Nzakoundou village (Ouham-Pendé, west), leaving at least two soldiers dead and ten people wounded. Wagner forces early to mid-month reportedly attacked civilians, including 11 March killing dozens in Gondile village (Vakaga prefecture, east) and 12 March killing over 15 in Markounda village (Ouham prefecture, centre). Following 27 Feb arrest on CAR-Chad border, CPC rebel group leader and former Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Minister Maxime Mokom transferred 14 March to International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during 2013-2014 civil war.
President Touadéra appointed Félix Moloua as new PM, opposition agreed to return to national dialogue, and armed clashes with rebels continued. Touadéra 7 Feb appointed Félix Moloua as new PM following Henri-Marie Dondra’s resignation; Mouloua seen as longstanding Touadéra ally, trusted technocrat by international donors and with more conciliant views on Russian paramilitary group Wagner than Dondra. Dondra now reportedly preparing exit to take over Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain (RDC) party, although his political ambitions may be challenged in near future as he is reportedly facing criminal charges for embezzlement of public funds while he was minister of finance and budget (2016-2021). In major step forward, opposition parties 3 Feb announced steering committee return to national dialogue after withdrawal in late Oct 2021; decision followed cancellation of procedure by National Assembly President Simplice Mathieu Sarandji to lift parliamentary immunity of three opposition leaders accused of collusion with Rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC). Cancellation became automatic after general prosecutor 10 Feb suspended judicial investigations against opposition leaders. Dialogue agenda likely to become another contentious issue with opposition parties as they call for inclusion of armed groups and equal number of representatives from govt, civil society and opposition in steering committee along with list of topics to discuss including transparency of electoral system ahead of Sept 2022 elections. Meanwhile, armed forces and Wagner paramilitary continued to pursue (their) efforts to eradicate Ali Darassa’s armed group Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique; notably armed clashes 2 Feb killed 12 people, including at least six civilians, in Boyo locality (Ouaka prefecture). Wagner reportedly now concentrated around mining sites and relying more on armed forces and local militias to control other zones to make intervention cost-effective. Russian mercenaries 12 Feb executed Rassemblement pour le renouveau de la Centrafrique (RPCR) leader Zakaria Damane along with a dozen of his men and family members in Sam-Ouandja town (Haute-Kotto prefecture). Damane’s stronghold was seen as key mining area and transit route for illegal traffic with Sudan; his death could incite some RPRC combatants to abandon disarmament process and join the rebellion.
Govt forces and Russian allies continued to clash with rebel groups, tensions over surrenders of UPC rebel group rose, and Russia renewed diplomatic engagement. Russian Wagner group, currently overstretched with over 2,000 personnel, relied more and more on national armed forces and anti-balaka fighters during month; group continued to carry out attacks, notably 6 Jan on mining site in Bambari reportedly killing at least 17 people, including civilians, in Pandé area (west); follows visit from Wagner heads to CAR in late Dec reportedly concluding need to strengthen presence around mining sites instead of military engagements across country. In Ouaka prefecture (centre), internal division within rebel Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) leadership 6 Jan prompted 100 combatants to surrender to military forces; fighters now held by Wagner Group in Bambari base. Soldiers 15 Jan killed former UPC officer who had surrendered. In Ouham-Pendé prefecture (north west), national armed forces by local militias reportedly committed serious abuses on Fulani civilians, notably 9 Jan killed one in Bozoum town. Meanwhile, rebel group Retour, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) stepped up use of landmines, posing serious threat to civilians and UN forces and hampering humanitarian assistance delivery. Fighting also reported in Haute-Kotto on Bria-Ndélé axis, where Russian paramilitaries and armed forces joined operation against UPC rebels, killing at least 13 civilians 16-17 Jan; UN mission MINUSCA subsequently launched enquiry. Meanwhile, Russia appeared to adjust strategy through 10 Jan appointment of Alexander Bikantov as new ambassador after six-month gap; former Russian Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko, who had left CAR in July 2021, was openly supportive of Touadéra and vocal on social media against political opposition and rebel leaders. National dialogue and regional roadmap announced by Touadéra in March 2021 still at standstill. Luanda roadmap adopted during Sept 2021 Great Lakes summit not implemented yet as govt forces and armed groups continue to violate unilateral ceasefire decided by Touadéra in mid Oct; Angolan and Rwandan diplomats 14 Jan met president to explore possible ways forward to support roadmap.
Pro-govt militia launched attacks on Fulani in Ouaka prefecture, raising fears of communal violence; EU sanctioned Russian Wagner Group and suspended army training mission. “Anti-balaka” pro-govt militia, backed by national army and Russian paramilitaries, 6-8 Dec attacked Boyo town and surrounding areas, Ouaka province, killing several dozen civilians. Attackers targeted Muslim Fulani in apparent revenge for activities of rebel group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC). Same pro-govt militia 16 Dec reportedly killed five civilians at Zimako village near Ippy, also Ouaka prefecture. Killings followed UPC attack 2 Dec on Kouanga town, also Ouaka prefecture, which reportedly left three injured. UN Mission in CAR, MINUSCA, 19 Dec condemned the violence in Boyo town and highlighted deliberate targeting of Fulani civilians and risk of escalating community tensions. In west, rebels of 3R group 18-19 Dec attacked army post near Mann town, Ouham-Pendé prefecture, reportedly leaving six dead including one soldier and one rebel. Unidentified IED 31 Dec injured three MINUSCA in Bohong locality in north west. EU 13 Dec issued sanctions targeting paramilitary Wagner Group, including for serious human rights abuses and destabilising activities in CAR; 15 Dec announced suspension of EU military training program, citing fears that troops in program may fight alongside Russian contractors. Fighting between rebels and Russian paramilitaries spilled over into Chad for second time this year, follows similar clashes in May: paramilitaries 10-12 Dec clashed with Chadian army in their pursuit of rebels who had crossed border, one Chadian soldier reported missing. Despite incident, CAR-Chad Mixed Commission 20-21 Dec met in Chadian capital N’Djamena, with Chadian govt saying it is willing to consider reopening border closed since 2014. Sudden release end Nov of suspected war criminal Hassan Bouba following his arrest by Special Criminal Court caused diplomatic and domestic ripples: lawyers’ union early Dec went on strike for three days in protest, Bangui-based diplomats and international NGO also condemned suspect’s release. U.S. 19 Dec placed travel and financial sanctions on Ali Darassa, UPC leader, for human rights abuses and threatening CAR’s peace and stability.
Govt forces and international allies continued to clash with rebel groups; UN mission’s mandate renewed despite tensions with Bangui. In Ouham prefecture (north west), international paramilitaries allied with govt 2-3 Nov killed several suspected Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) rebels controlling mining sites of Kadanga and Poussière, 5 Nov killed another three rebels in Boguila village. In Ouham-Pendé prefecture (also north west), 3R 14 Nov attacked army near Mann town, killing one soldier and at least 11 civilians and 28 Nov reportedly fought with army in Koui sub-prefecture near Bogoranga locality, reportedly leaving over a dozen civilians and at least two soldiers dead. Fighting also reported in central Ouaka prefecture (centre): suspected rebels 7 Nov killed five civilians in Ngoubondo and Latiyou villages and 14 Nov killed one soldier and two international paramilitaries in Boyo village. International paramilitaries 16 Nov killed three suspected members of rebel group Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) in Zoumako area, also Ouaka. Major joint army and international paramilitary operation against armed groups in Bria area, Haute Kotto prefecture (east), 23-24 Nov reportedly left seven dead, and further joint operation 27 Nov left at least two dead in Bambari area in Ouaka prefecture. UN Security Council 12 Nov renewed mandate of UN mission (MINUSCA) for another year. Tensions between Bangui and MINUSCA had risen 1 Nov when presidential guard fired on UN convoy in capital Bangui, injuring 12 peacekeepers; UN troops ran over and killed 18-year-old woman as they left scene. In apparent appeasement measure ahead of national dialogue, National Assembly Speaker Simplice Sarandji 2 Nov halted process aimed at stripping some opposition MPs of parliamentary immunity to allow their prosecution on accusations of complicity with rebels; opposition maintained threat to boycott dialogue. Security forces 19 Nov arrested UPC faction leader and current Livestock Minister Hassan Bouba over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity; Bouba’s supporters threatened to pull out of alliance with govt which has seen dozens lay down arms in recent months; Bouba released one week later. Govt 10 Nov opened investigation against 30 armed group leaders, including former President Bozizé, for violation of state’s sovereignty.
Despite President Touadéra’s unilateral ceasefire with rebel groups, violence across country persisted. Fighting pitting army and international allies mainly against Return, Rehabilitation and Reclamation (3R) rebel group in west and Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) rebel group in centre-east continued. In west, presumed 3R rebels 4 Oct killed three Russian forces in Bombo town, Mambéré-Kadéï prefecture, two rebels also dead; rebels 11 Oct reportedly killed five Russian paramilitaries near Banga village, also Mambéré-Kadéï; clashes reportedly left three rebels dead. Rebels 15 Oct attacked army position near Ngaoundaye town, Ouham-Pendé prefecture, killing three; army blamed 3R rebel group. In centre-east, rebels 7 Oct attacked army post near Bambari town, Ouaka prefecture, leaving two soldiers dead, rebel casualties unknown. Fighting in and around Bria town, Haute-Kotto prefecture, 11-12 Oct reportedly left three soldiers, two UPC rebels and foreign paramilitary dead. In centre-east, rebel group 5 Oct attacked combined commercial and humanitarian convoy at Matchika village near Bambari town in Ouaka prefecture, killing at least 30 civilians; govt 7 Oct accused UPC group but UPC denied involvement. In south, army and UPC insurgents starting 14 Oct fought for control of Alindao town, Basse-Kotto prefecture, with rebels partly controlling town by month’s end. Meanwhile, President Touadéra 15 Oct declared unilateral ceasefire in fight against rebel groups, complying with key demand of international partners; in response, rebel groups agreed to comply with ceasefire if govt respects pledge. Govt forces, international paramilitaries and rebel groups however all violated ceasefire in following two weeks; notably, international paramilitaries 16-17 Oct reportedly killed at least seven civilians in Benzambe village, Ouham prefecture. UN human rights experts 27 Oct expressed concern at recent abuses against civilians by international “private military and security contractors”. On political front, Justice Minister Arnaud Djoubaye Abalene 1 Oct presented National Commission of Enquiry report into abuses committed in 2021, which found rebel groups responsible for most incidents but confirming recent UN findings that national army and international paramilitaries also responsible for numerous abuses; report calls for all suspected soldiers to face justice and suspected international paramilitary forces to be expelled.
Govt forces and Russian allies pursued counter-insurgency operations, leaving high civilian toll, and President Touadéra again refused rebels’ participation in national dialogue. Amid ongoing offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), Russian security personnel and govt forces reportedly killed 15 ethnic Fulani civilians in Ouaka prefecture 4-8 Sept and another 19 in Ouham-Pendé prefecture 11 and 28 Sept. 3R rebel group (a CPC member) 11 Sept accused govt forces and Russian personnel of carrying out “genocide” against Fulanis in west. Opposition party Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People 18 Sept said civilians in north west are caught between Russian mercenaries and CPC in “open-air prison”, accused UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) of inaction. Meanwhile, armed encounters between rebels and security forces persisted. In Nana-Mambéré prefecture, CPC 3 Sept ambushed Russian personnel escorting commercial trucks in Beloko town, killing one. In Mambéré-Kadeï prefecture, CPC 20 Sept reportedly retook control of Banga town after army and Russian personnel had seized it mid-Sept. In Ouaka prefecture, CPC 28 Sept reportedly killed two soldiers near Bambari town. CPC also continued to target civilians and NGO staff; notably, suspected CPC explosive devices 9-10 Sept killed one NGO personnel and one civilian in Ouham-Pendé prefecture. Touadéra early Sept installed Republican Dialogue Organizing Committee – tasked with setting up and running long-delayed political dialogue; govt 28-29 Sept reaffirmed refusal to include CPC rebels in dialogue during consultations with political parties, civil society and religious representatives in Italy’s capital Rome. International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) 16 Sept adopted roadmap for peace in Central African Republic; called on govt to accept ceasefire with CPC and revitalise Feb 2019 peace agreement. Authorities 4 Sept arrested former anti-balaka commander and senior figure of former President Bozizé’s presidential guard Eugène Ngaïkosset; Special Criminal Court in capital Bangui, made up of national and international magistrates, 10 Sept charged Ngaïkosset with crimes against humanity. UN 15 Sept ordered immediate withdrawal of Gabonese contingent part of MINUSCA over Gabon’s failure to “conduct timely and effective investigations” into allegations of sexual abuse by contingent members in CAR dating back to 2015.
Govt forces and foreign allies faced renewed international scrutiny over alleged abuses while tensions persisted between govt and opposition. UN report 4 Aug said country’s human rights situation “alarming”, listing 526 incidents from July 2020 to June 2021 including extrajudicial executions, torture and sexual violence; over half of recorded incidents blamed on rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), while armed forces and Russian security personnel responsible for 46% of recorded violations, including rising attacks on Muslim communities in Feb-June. Army, along with Russian security personnel, throughout month pursued military offensive against CPC, which continued to harass govt forces and civilians. Notably, in Ouham-Pendé prefecture, CPC combatants 5 Aug reportedly killed at least two Russian security personnel near Wouro Dolé village; army and Russian personnel 20 Aug attacked CPC positions in nearby Koui town, reportedly killing three civilians. In Ouaka prefecture, Russian personnel 12 Aug reportedly killed two combatants from Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) – which withdrew from CPC in April – in Bokolobo locality. Rwanda 3 Aug seconded 300 soldiers to UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) to help secure supply road between capital Bangui and Béloko town at border with Cameroon; additional 450 Rwandan soldiers expected by year’s end. Meanwhile, opposition 1 Aug criticised as biased President Touadéra’s late-July appointment of four govt ministers to committee tasked with setting up and running long-delayed political dialogue. Constitutional court 10 Aug stripped former National Assembly president, now opposition MP, Karim Meckassoua of his parliamentary seat for allegedly exhorting CPC to launch offensive against govt in Dec 2020; Meckassoua 15 Aug reportedly fled to DR Congo ahead of interrogation scheduled for next day; main opposition coalition COD-2020 24 Aug criticised court’s ruling, said Meckassoua should have been allowed to take part in national dialogue. Yearly World Bank report released 3 Aug warned CAR would enter economic recession in 2021 due to COVID-19 and post-electoral crises. Touadéra and Rwandan President Kagame 5 Aug signed four cooperation agreements, including in areas of defence and trade.
Govt took steps to organise long-delayed political dialogue with opposition and civil society; govt forces along with foreign allies continued to clash with rebels. After opposition 5 July criticised as biased committee which President Touadéra appointed late June to set up and run political dialogue, govt 9 July held talks with opposition and civil society representatives to reach compromise; main opposition coalition COD-2020 24 July said it would take part in dialogue, after govt agreed committee would no longer be placed under Touadéra’s direct authority, raised number of political parties’ representatives from one to four, and broadened choice of experts who can provide support. Long-delayed Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission, recommended in 2015 Bangui Forum and 2019 Khartoum peace deal, set up 2 July with swearing-in of all 11 commissioners. Meanwhile, army along with Russian security personnel pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), who continued to harass govt forces and civilians mainly in areas left by Russian security personnel in recent months. Notably, CPC rebel groups reportedly killed three soldiers in Besson town, Nana-Mambéré prefecture 9 July, one civilian in Bédamara village, Ouham-Pendé prefecture 18 July, and another two in Naziboro village, Nana-Mambéré prefecture 20 July; CPC member 3R 26 July killed at least four Russian security personnel and two govt troops in Ndongué Douane village, Nana-Mambéré prefecture, and 31 July killed at least six civilians in Mann village, Ouham-Pendé prefecture. CPC also staged further ambushes along main roads, mainly in Ouham-Pendé and Lim-Pendé prefectures, notably killing three civilians in Ouham-Pendé prefecture first week of July. Unidentified assailants 21 July killed 13 civilians in Bongboto area, Ouham prefecture; govt immediately blamed CPC, which denied responsibility; UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) next day called for investigation amid persistent reports of abuses against civilians by all sides in conflict. Rebel group Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), which withdrew from CPC in April, 17 July offered to “definitively lay down arms” in exchange for concessions from govt, including two ministerial portfolios. UN Security Council 29 July renewed sanctions regime until 31 July 2022.
Govt forces and foreign allies faced mounting international scrutiny over alleged abuses, relations with France soured and deadly farmer-herder violence flared at border with Chad. Army, with Russian ally, pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), who continued to harass govt and allied forces through indirect confrontation, including targeting supply trucks and using IEDs along roadsides. Army 28 June reportedly repelled attack by rebel group Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), which withdrew from CPC in April, on its positions in Alindao town, Basse-Kotto prefecture; seven killed. Meanwhile, govt troops and Russian paramilitaries faced international criticism for their conduct. Notably, report of UN Sec-Gen Guterres covering Feb-June developments 16 June decried abuses committed by armed groups, national army and “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel”; head of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) Mankeur Ndiaye 23 June accused state forces of “recent widespread rights abuses” which “compromise any chance of establishing trust between citizens and their leaders”. Following legislative elections, President Touadéra 11 June appointed Finance Minister Henri-Marie Dondra as new PM; Dondra to replace Firmin Ngrébada, seen as key architect of country’s alliance with Moscow; Dondra 23 June formed new govt. France 8 June suspended military cooperation with govt and some €10mn in budgetary support over Bangui’s failure to set up political dialogue with opposition and “massive disinformation campaigns” against Paris. Attorney general next day confirmed he would prosecute French national arrested in May in capital Bangui on five counts including espionage, endangering state security and illegal possession of weapons. Following border clashes with Chad in May and N’Djamena’s announcement that it started to deploy reinforcements to areas bordering CAR on 31 May, both countries 1 June said they would set up “independent and impartial international commission of inquiry” to ascertain responsibilities. In deadliest farmer-herder violence in years, Chadian herders 10 June killed at least 15 civilians in Tiri village, Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture near border with Chad, prompting some 3,000 to flee; incident followed dispute same day between local farmer and Chadian herder, which left latter dead.
Govt forces along with foreign allies continued to gain ground against rebels, remaining rounds of legislative polls held without major incidents, and border tensions with N’djamena flared. Army, with Rwandan and Russian support, pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), taking back at least 25 towns and villages previously under rebel control for several years; notably, armed forces 9 May regained control of Bakouma town in Mbomou prefecture, under rebel control since 2013. CPC rebels 17 May reportedly killed at least 17 civilians in Grevaï village, Nana-Gribizi prefecture; also, CPC continued to harass govt and allied forces through indirect confrontation, including using IEDs along roadsides, with at least seven incidents reported by month’s end. Clashes between rebels from Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), which withdrew from CPC in April, and suspected Russian paramilitaries 15-16 May reportedly killed at least 20 civilians in Boyo village, Ouaka prefecture. French media Radio France Internationale 3 May reported it had seen confidential UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) reports documenting abuses by Russian combatants against civilians, including 26 extrajudicial executions between Jan and April 2021. Govt same day cast doubt on accuracy of report but said it would establish commission of inquiry to investigate alleged abuses while Russia immediately denounced “fake news”. Tensions with Chad rose as N’Djamena 30 May said CAR soldiers attacked Chadian military post at border, leaving six soldiers dead, and accused Bangui of “war crime” that would “not go unpunished”; CAR next day said “exchanges of fire” at border had left casualties on both sides, suggested joint investigation. Meanwhile, 90 of 140 total MPs, most affiliated with ruling party United Hearts Movement (MCU), 3 May took up their seats in National Assembly, and 5 May elected MCU Secretary General Simplice Mathieu Sarandji as National Assembly president. Authorities 23 May held parliamentary elections in about 50 remaining constituencies where elections had been postponed due to insecurity; electoral commission 30 May announced MCU had won 11 new seats, bringing total to 36, far from absolute majority in National Assembly.
Govt forces continued to gain ground against rebels, prompting major armed group to announce withdrawal from coalition. Army, with support from Rwanda and Russia, continued military operation against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), notably regaining control of Niem town in Nana-Mambéré prefecture 7 April, strategic commercial hub Kaga-Bandoro in Nana-Gribizi prefecture 10 April, and Kabo town in Ouham prefecture 15 April; some towns had been under rebel control for several years. CPC rebels throughout month continued to ambush security forces, notably killing three soldiers near Birao town, Vakaga prefecture, 16 April; Arab Missiria militia reportedly involved in ambush. In ongoing violence against humanitarian workers, CPC 7 April briefly detained NGO World Vision staff in Bocaranga area, Ouham-Pendé prefecture. UN refugee agency 20 April said violence had displaced over 2,000 people into neighbouring Chad over previous week. CPC member Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation 2 April said its leader Sidiki Abbas had died 25 March from injuries sustained in Nov 2020; govt had previously claimed to have killed him in Dec 2020. Ali Darassa, leader of armed group Union for Peace in Central Africa, 5 April announced withdrawal from CPC, renewed commitment to Feb 2019 peace deal; govt 7 April excluded resuming negotiations with Darassa. Meanwhile, govt 8 April requested National Assembly lift parliamentary immunity of four opposition MPs over alleged links to CPC. Ahead of national dialogue expected first half of May, govt 19 April launched consultation process with opposition in capital Bangui; main opposition coalition COD-2020 25 April said it would boycott consultations and dialogue, called for inclusive process involving armed groups. Head of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) Mankeur Ndiaye 5 April discussed situation in CAR with Russian Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov, after UN experts late March alleged “grave human rights abuses” by Russian paramilitaries, raising questions over MINUSCA’s failure to prevent abuses. Thousands, mostly ruling-party supporters, 15 April protested in Bangui after Ndiaye 9 April said solution to conflict was not military and called for dialogue.
Second round of legislative polls, along with rerun in some constituencies, held without major disruption; military operations against rebels continued. Despite initial concerns that renewed fighting could erupt around 14 March votes, second round of elections for National Assembly and rerun of first round contests held in 118 of 140 total constituencies without major security incidents; some voting irregularities however reported. AU election observer mission 16 March welcomed smooth conduct of vote in its preliminary findings. Polls highlighted divisions within opposition; notably, Democratic Opposition Coalition (COD-2020), largest coalition of opposition parties, had several of its members participating in polls despite coalition’s Feb decision to boycott them. National electoral authority 21 March announced that Ruling United Hearts Movement (MCU) won 25 out of 92 seats, leaving it far from having absolute majority in National Assembly. President Touadéra 30 March sworn in for second term after winning Dec 2020 presidential election, vowed to eliminate all armed groups by end of his term. Govt pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) and rejected talks, while rebels appeared to resort to criminal activities as sign of CPC weakening. Notably, CPC 7 March robbed UN truck on Bossangoa-Paoua route, Ouham-Pendé prefecture; CPC-led attacks 11 and 13 March left two civilians killed in Kemo and Ouham-Pendé prefectures, respectively. CPC 21 March confirmed former President Bozizé new CPC general coordinator. Amid ongoing efforts by Angola and Economic Community of Central African States to support dialogue with rebels, govt continued to reject talks; Touadéra 18 March however announced for second time national dialogue with opposition parties and civil society groups, with informal talks held last week of March. UN Security Council 12 March authorised deployment of 2,750 additional troops and 940 police to help UN mission (MINUSCA) protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian access. UN humanitarian office 19 March estimated that recent crisis had displaced more than 240,000 people since Dec, bringing total number of Central Africans displaced (IDPs and refugees) to over 1.5mn, third of country’s total population.
Armed forces and allies pushed back rebel coalition, but renewed fighting could erupt around 14 March run-off elections. Army, with support from Rwanda and Russia, launched counter-offensive operations against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), partially reopening capital Bangui’s road lifeline to neighbouring Cameroon 16 Feb. Govt forces and their allies recaptured Bossembélé and Yaloké towns (Ombella-M’Poko prefecture) 4-5 Feb; Bossemptélé and Bozoum towns (Ouham-Pendé prefecture) 7 and 25 Feb respectively; Bouar, Baboua, Cantonnier and Beloko towns (Nana-Mambéré prefecture) 9-11 Feb; Bambari and Ippy towns (Ouaka prefecture) 17-19 Feb; Bossangoa, Benzambé and Kambakota towns (Ouham prefecture) 24-26 Feb; death toll unknown. CPC rebels 9 Jan ambushed UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) convoy 24km north of Bangassou, injuring two peacekeepers; next day reportedly kidnapped Russian mercenary and killed several others near Bambari. Clashes between CPC rebels and armed forces 16 Feb reportedly left at least 14 civilians dead in Bambari; NGO Amnesty International 24 Feb called for investigation. Govt-sponsored demonstrations 12 Feb erupted in Bangui against Angola-led regional efforts to establish dialogue between govt and rebel coalition. Meanwhile, Constitutional Court 1 Feb proclaimed results of Dec 2020 legislative elections, saying 22 out of 140 deputies elected in first round, including five ruling party candidates, while 61 seats require second round and new elections will be held for 57 seats in constituencies where elections could not take place due to insecurity. Main opposition coalition COD-2020 next day rejected results and announced withdrawal from electoral process, citing irregularities and violence; signs of internal dissent however appeared with prominent coalition member rejecting boycott. President Touadéra 13 Feb scheduled run-offs and rerun of first-round elections for 14 March. At start of their trial before International Criminal Court, former anti-Balaka warlords Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona 16 Feb pleaded not guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2013-2014.
Coalition of armed groups allied to former President Bozizé launched attacks in push to encircle capital Bangui, while incumbent President Touadéra won 27 Dec presidential election. Newly-formed Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), alliance of country’s six most powerful rebel groups, escalated attacks against govt and UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA); by month’s end, over 200,000 civilians had been forced to flee their homes since conflict started in early Dec. Notably, CPC 3 Jan seized Bangassou city in Mbomou prefecture (south east); MINUSCA 15-16 Jan regained control of town. Army and MINUSCA troops, with support from Rwandan and Russian troops, repelled CPC attacks on Damara city (Ombella-M’Poko prefecture in west) 2 Jan, Bouar city (Nana-Mambéré prefecture in west) 9 and 17 Jan, Grimari city (Ouaka prefecture in centre) 9 Jan and on outskirts of Bangui 13 Jan; death toll unknown. Suspected CPC combatants 15 and 18 Jan ambushed MINUSCA convoys near Grimari and Bangassou, killing three peacekeepers. Military and allied forces mid- to late-Jan launched counter-offensives in bid to break rebel stranglehold on Bangui. Army 24-25 reportedly regained control of Boda city, Lobaye prefecture (west) and govt 25 Jan said military and allied forces had killed 44 rebels in Boyali village, Ombella-M’Poko prefecture. Security forces 11 Jan killed one civilian in Bangui for allegedly breaking night curfew, which was imposed 7 Jan; hours later killed another three who had gathered in protest. Authorities early Jan opened investigation into Bozizé’s alleged role in ongoing “rebellion”, 16-19 Jan arrested two generals and several soldiers and civilians in crackdown on perceived Bozizé sympathisers, and late Jan issued arrest warrant against CPC spokesman Abakar Sabone. Meanwhile, electoral commission 4 Jan declared Touadéra re-elected in first round of presidential election with 53% of votes despite reports of widespread irregularities and low turnout at 35%. Ten of 17 presidential candidates 5 Jan called for annulment of results and new election. Constitutional court 18 Jan confirmed Touadéra’s re-election, which main opposition coalition COD-2020 rejected next day.
Deadly fighting involving armed groups allied to former President Bozizé broke out ahead of 27 Dec general elections; electoral results could spark escalation in Jan. After months of uncertainty over presidential candidacy of former President Bozizé, Constitutional Court 3 Dec rejected his application, citing international arrest warrant and UN sanctions against him; Bozizé’s party same day denounced court ruling. Coalition of six armed groups, all signatories to Feb 2019 peace agreement and including some supporting Bozizé, 15 Dec announced mobilisation against govt and electoral process; 18-19 Dec took over parts of Lobaye, Ouham, Ouham-Pendé, Nana Gribizi and Ombella M’Poko prefectures in west, centre and south, blocking main supply routes to Bangui, and clashing with army and UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) notably around cities of Bossombele (Ombella M’Poko), Bossemptele (Ouham-Pendé) and Bambari (Ouaka); death toll unknown; 1,500 civilians reportedly fled to neighbouring Cameroon 18-23 Dec. UN 18 Dec condemned violence and called on “all actors to urgently cease hostile actions”. Govt next day said Bozizé was behind new armed coalition and accused him of “coup attempt”. At govt’s request, Russia and Rwanda 20-21 Dec deployed hundreds of troops notably around Lobaye’s capital Mbaiki. Unidentified assailants 25 Dec killed three MINUSCA troops in Dekoa town, Kémo prefecture (centre). On election day, suspected armed group members set election material on fire in Ouham-Pendé prefecture and fired shots in Ouaka, Haute-Kotto and Nana-Mambéré prefectures; also threatened voters and election officials across country. Unidentified assailants next day attacked public bus in Grimari city, Ouaka prefecture, reportedly killing several civilians including Médecins sans Frontières worker. Electoral commission 28 Dec said over 14% of polling stations were closed due to insecurity across country. Meanwhile, clashes between armed groups erupted in north east: ethnic Goula ex-Seleka group and ethnic Arab Missirias militia from neighbouring Sudan 1 Dec clashed in Boromata town, Vakaga prefecture, leaving 35 Arab Missirias and four Goula dead; army and MINUSCA immediately sent troops to patrol town.
Tensions increased over former President Bozizé’s presidential candidacy, raising risk of violence around 27 Dec general elections; armed group activity persisted across country. Electoral commission 1-10 Nov registered 22 presidential candidates, including President Touadéra and former President Bozizé. Controversy persisted over latter’s eligibility, as electoral code requires at least one year in-country residency before running for president and exact date of Bozizé’s return from exile remains unclear. Former President Djotodia 8 Nov called on Bozizé to “respect the law” to preserve “stability and peace”. Constitutional Court to release final list of candidates early Dec. Meanwhile, armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) attacks decreased further in north west. 3R combatants 4 Nov, however, detained Fulani herder in Sanguere village, Ouham-Pendé prefecture; 3R reportedly repositioned on strategic axes ahead of transhumance movements, raising risk of further attacks on pastoralists in coming weeks. 3R leader Sidiki Abbas 3 Nov accused govt of failing to honour commitments made during meeting on electoral preparations last month and threatened to disrupt elections. In south east, suspected armed group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) faction led by James Nando 8 Nov attacked armed group Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) camp in Bambouti town, Haut-Mbomou prefecture, killing two UPC combatants and suffering heavy losses; clashes resumed 15 Nov, killing one civilian. Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration process continued, with over 400 armed group combatants demobilised in Vakaga (north east) and Nana-Grébizi (north) prefectures 16 Oct-3 Nov. UPC leader Ali Darassa 4 Nov said 200 UPC elements were ready to demobilise in Haute-Kotto (east) and Ouaka (centre) prefectures, called on all armed groups in east to follow suit in lead-up to general elections. Community leaders from north east, where intercommunal tensions flared in early 2020, 7-10 Nov met with Touadéra in capital Bangui, signed reconciliation agreement. UN Security Council 12 Nov extended mandate of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) until 15 Nov 2021.
Armed group violence continued in north west and south east, and preparations for general elections moved forward. Govt representatives, UN Mission (MINUSCA) and peace agreement guarantors 3-5 Oct met armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) leader, Sidiki Abbas, in Koui town, Ouham-Pendé prefecture, to discuss electoral preparations; Abbas reportedly agreed to stop blocking voter registration process in north west, same day freed three policemen kidnapped last month near Bang town, Ouham-Pendé prefecture. Meanwhile, armed group violence continued in north west. In Ouham prefecture, anti-Balaka rival factions 1 Oct clashed over control of Bowara mining site, leaving four dead; unidentified assailants 10 Oct kidnapped two herders and killed one of them near Batangafo town; NGO Doctors Without Borders 16 Oct suspended its activities in Kabo town amid persistent targeting of humanitarian workers. In south east, violence flared between anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka armed group Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC). After UPC 3 Oct arrested anti-Balaka leader in Pombolo village, Mbomou prefecture, groups in following days clashed in Kembé town, Basse-Kotto prefecture, Pombolo and Gambo villages, both Mbomou prefecture; MINUSCA and local authorities 6 Oct intervened to de-escalate tensions. Ahead of Dec general elections, National Electoral Authority 16 Oct completed voter registration, 27 Oct published electoral lists; moves follow Sept National Assembly decisions to extend electoral calendar deadlines but keep 27 Dec as election day. Opposition parties repeatedly denounced “poor electoral preparation” and argued that their key demands could not be met in proposed timeframe, including addressing insecurity across country and enabling refugees to vote. Meanwhile controversy persisted over eligibility of former President Bozizé, who returned to country in late 2019, as electoral code requires presidential candidates to have at least 12-month in-country residence prior to filing for candidacy.
Armed group attacks hindered electoral preparations in north west, and persisted in centre and south east. Armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) maintained attacks in Ouham-Pendé prefecture in north west as it continued to disperse across region under pressure from UN mission (MINUSCA) operation launched in June. 3R elements 7 Sept kidnapped two policemen near Bang town after locals 5 Sept arrested two 3R combatants and delivered them to security forces; 8 Sept attacked army convoy on Mokondi-Ouali axis, ensuing clashes left 12 combatants dead and five soldiers injured; next day shot at ambulance on Bocaranga-Bouar axis, causing temporary suspension of humanitarian activities in area; sporadic attacks continued until late Sept. Ahead of 27 Dec general elections, electoral authority 16 Sept said voter registration could not be completed on time in three prefectures, including north-western Ouham-Pendé and Nana-Mambéré, due to ongoing violence. Meanwhile, several armed groups remained active in south east and centre. Armed group Unity for Peace in Central Africa 3 Sept intercepted two NGO trucks and tried to extort passengers in Kemba village, Basse-Kotto prefecture in south east. Anti-balaka and ex-Seleka armed groups 6 Sept clashed in Kouki village, Ouham prefecture in centre, leaving one anti-balaka dead; unidentified individuals next day attacked UN convoy transferring suspect, no casualties reported. Suspected armed group Lord’s Resistance Army 28 Sept reportedly kidnapped around ten civilians in Likhoua village, Haut-Mbomou prefecture in south east. Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration program made slow progress in centre and centre-east. President Touadéra’s national security adviser 13 Sept announced demobilisation of 60 combatants in Nana-Gribizi prefecture, including 53 from armed group Patriotic Movement for Central Africa. Demobilisation of several armed group combatants started in Bria, Haute-Kotto prefecture, with 30 combatants from Popular Front for Central African Renaissance demobilised 16 Sept.
Armed groups maintained attacks in several areas in attempt to disrupt preparations for general elections scheduled for Dec. Armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) leader Ali Darassa 1 Aug disengaged from agreement reached with govt in July, in which he committed to facilitate electoral preparations in areas under his control and initiate disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration program, and renounce alliance reached in June with other Fulani-dominated armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R). In following days, UPC launched attacks against electoral officials. In Ouaka prefecture in centre, UPC 12 Aug assaulted election registration officers in Ippy town. In Haut-Mbomou prefecture in south east, UPC 16 Aug abducted two election registration officers and seven members of medical team in Mboki town; govt 18 Aug said all hostages had been released; UPC mid-Aug reportedly ambushed and killed trader on Obo-Bambouti axis. 3R also continued to target civilians in charge of electoral preparations. In Ouham-Pendé prefecture in north west, suspected 3R elements 2 Aug ambushed electoral registration officials on Bozoum-Bouar axis; 3R leader Sidiki Abbas 16 Aug ordered cessation of electoral enrolment and departure of electoral officers from Bouar city and Koui area; UN mission (MINUSCA) and armed forces next day reportedly ousted 3R from Koui town. UN Security Council 5 Aug imposed sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze on Abbas, citing involvement in killing civilians and arms trafficking. In Haute-Kotto prefecture in east, armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance 24-28 Aug reportedly expelled electoral officers from Nzacko and Yalinga towns. Meanwhile, clashes between anti-balaka Ayoloma group and armed forces 2 Aug left six anti-balaka dead in Grimari city, Ouaka prefecture. Armed group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) carried out wave of kidnappings in Haut-Mbomou prefecture, reportedly killing two hostages and kidnapping seven locals in Birho village 1-2 Aug, and several others in following days; LRA reportedly freed all hostages 10 Aug after 8 Aug meeting with MINUSCA.
Violence mounted in west and centre, while security situation continued to improve in north east. In west, armed group Return, Reclamation, 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.
Armed groups violence decreased in north east but intensified in west, while attacks on NGOs increased in centre. In north east, attacks by armed groups eased following late May-early June joint operation by UN mission (MINUSCA) and armed forces around Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture’s capital Ndélé and govt 5 June deployment of police forces to support troops in area. Prominent Sudanese Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, under International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for 15 years, reportedly surrendered to CAR authorities in north-eastern Vakaga prefecture’s capital Birao 7 June and was transferred to ICC next day. Violence increased in west after armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) 5 June suspended participation in Feb 2019 peace agreement. 3R elements 9 June launched several attacks in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, notably against base of special mixed security units – comprising demobilised armed group members and soldiers – near city of Bouar, national army-UN checkpoint in Pougol village, and security forces outside Baoro village, reportedly leaving several injured. 3R leader Sidiki Abbas 11 June denied attacks and accused govt of “orchestrating chaos to justify postponement of [presidential and legislative] elections scheduled for Dec”. After MINUSCA and military 17 June launched joint counter-offensive in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, 3R elements 21 June allegedly ambushed joint MINUSCA and national army convoy near Besson town, killing five soldiers. MINUSCA and 3R reportedly clashed 29-30 June in Koui locality, Ouham-Pendé prefecture, death toll unknown. In centre north, NGOs 25 May-8 June suffered multiple attacks between Batangafo town in Ouham prefecture and Kaga-Bandoro town in Nana-Gribizi prefecture. In centre, anti-Balaka Ayoloma group 3-16 June carried out at least ten attacks on NGOs and UN vehicles on Grimari-Sibut axis in Ouaka and Kemo prefectures. Also in centre, armed group Patriotic Movement for Central Africa 11 June kidnapped several Fulani herders and stole livestock in Kemo prefecture. Constitutional Court 5 June rejected govt’s project to amend Constitution to enable extension of President Touadéra and MPs’ terms in case Dec elections are postponed due to COVID-19.
Clashes between armed groups persisted in north east following flare-up in violence late April, while attacks by armed groups continued in west and increased in south east. In Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture in north east, Runga-led armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) on one hand, and allied forces of ethnic Gula Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of Central Africa (RPRC) and ethnic Kara Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) on the other, clashed around Ndélé town first week of May, leaving eight dead including civilians; further clashes between FPRC and RPRC outside Ndélé 12 May left four combatants and two civilians dead. In attempt to curb violence and reassert state presence, govt 10 May deployed troops to Ndélé for first time since 2012 alongside reinforcements from UN mission (MINUSCA). Special Criminal Court 8 May opened investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during clashes in Ndélé 6, 11 March and 29 April, while MINUSCA forces 19 May arrested nine RPRC rebels including former Séléka leader Azor Kalite for alleged role in 29 April violence. In west, armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) launched attacks in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, occupying town of Baboua 30 April-5 May and reportedly killing civilian in Niem-Yéléwa commune 22 May. President Touadéra 12 May inaugurated deployment of first battalion of special mixed security units (USMS) – stipulated under Feb 2019 peace deal and comprising demobilised armed group members and soldiers – in town of Bouar, also Nana-Mambéré prefecture; Abbas Sidiki, leader of 3R incorporated into USMS forces, reportedly left Bouar next day to protest against Touadéra’s guard and protocol. In Haut-Mbomou prefecture in south east, MINUSCA and govt forces 19-25 May repelled multiple attacks by armed group Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) around Obo town; at least 20 UPC combatants killed and nine arrested. UPC chief Ali Darassa 28 May denied UPC involvement in fighting in Obo, and accused govt forces of killing civilians.
Renewed fighting broke up in north east after seven armed groups suspended participation in govt and Feb 2019 peace agreement implementation mechanisms. President Touadéra 16 April met Ali Darassa, leader of armed group Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), and PM Firmin Ngrébada 25 April met Abdoulaye Hissène, leader of armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC), in capital Bangui in alleged attempt to explore ways to achieve peace in north east and centre before presidential election scheduled for Dec; however, in joint statement, seven armed groups, including UPC and FPRC, 25 April said they were suspending participation in govt and Feb 2019 peace agreement implementation mechanisms, accusing govt of failing to abide by its commitments. Violence thereafter flared in north east. Armed group Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of Central Africa (RPRC) and allied armed group Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) 29-30 April clashed with FPRC in Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture’s capital Ndélé, at least 37 reportedly killed, mainly civilians. Earlier in month, ethnic Gula RPRC 6 April attacked ethnic Runga factions of FPRC in Ndélé; death toll unknown, but reportedly low casualties. UN Security Council 20 April imposed sanctions on Martin Koumtamadji (alias Abdoulaye Miskine), leader of armed group Democratic Front of the Central African People, including asset freeze and travel ban, accusing him of recruiting fighters in violation of Feb 2019 peace agreement. In north-western Ouham-Pendé prefecture, angry mob 9 April destroyed base of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in Béboura village, injuring two peacekeepers, following death of civilian in road accident involving MINUSCA vehicle. In Bangui, authorities 3 April arrested six individuals including two military officers on suspicion of planning jailbreak of soldiers detained since late March for alleged coup plot. National Assembly President and VP 16 April proposed constitutional amendments to enable extension of President Touadéra and MPs’ terms in case of postponement of Dec election due to COVID-19; political opposition and civil society rejected proposals.
Fighting continued in provinces, especially in north east between armed groups and ethnic communities, reportedly leaving dozens dead. In north east, ethnic Runga faction of Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) clashed with Gula armed group Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of Central Africa (RPRC) in Ndélé town, Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture 2-11 March, fighting reportedly left around 40 dead including at least twenty civilians. Unidentified armed group ambushed UN mission (MINUSCA) near Ndélé 15 March injuring peacekeeper; MINUSCA reportedly killed two assailants. Violence erupted again in area end month following RPRC attack on Runga-majority village near Ndélé 25 March. In Vakaga prefecture also in north east, ethnic Kara armed group Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) 3 March clashed with ethnic Sara elements of FPRC, one MLCJ fighter killed. Leader of Fulani-dominated armed group Union for Peace in the Central African Republic 18-19 March convened representatives of ex-Seleka armed groups in Bria, Haute-Kotto prefecture in centre-east; participants 19 March signed agreement to prevent fighting in Vakaga prefecture spilling south into neighbouring Haute-Kotto. In north west, anti-balaka combatants 4 March killed three Fulani herders in clashes in Ngatoua village and another Fulani in Gbakaya village, both in Ouham prefecture. In south west, armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) 4 March killed two civilians. In centre, suspected anti-balaka 15 March killed UN peacekeeper in Ouaka prefecture. In capital Bangui, authorities 28 March arrested twenty former anti-balaka who had been integrated into national armed forces over fears of potential coup.
In north east, deadly clashes between armed groups continued throughout month, until leader of one group 20 Feb unilaterally announced 30-day ceasefire. In far north east in Vakaga prefecture, fighting between ethnic Kara armed group Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and ethnic Runga-led rebel group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) reportedly left at least ten dead near MLCJ-held Birao town 13 Feb. At request of UN mission MINUSCA, French fighter planes mid-Feb flew over Birao to deter FPRC attacks, but FPRC 16 Feb clashed with MLCJ and UN peacekeepers, at least a dozen FPRC and six MLCJ reportedly killed. Hundreds of FPRC combatants and ethnic Runga 16-18 Feb demonstrated near MINUSCA base in Ndélé town, Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, accusing it of supporting MLCJ. FPRC 4 and 7 Feb attacked ethnic Gula villagers in Mbomou and Haute-Kotto prefectures in east killing five. After meeting with representatives of regional bloc Economic Community of Central African States and African Union in Sudanese capital Khartoum, FPRC leader Noureddine Adam 20 Feb announced 30-day ceasefire, declared willingness to talk with local leaders and representatives of ethnic groups. In west, self-defence group 18 Feb clashed with armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R), leaving three 3R fighters dead in Nana Mambere prefecture. In centre, MINUSCA operation early Feb forced armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic out of Alindao. Some 2,000 people 17 Feb demonstrated in front of UN of