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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.
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.
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.