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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.
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.
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.