Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a violent takeover of power in 2013. The aftermath saw armed groups conclude a multitude of peace agreements even as they continued to fight each other and launch attacks on the civilian population. The latest agreement, sponsored by the African Union and signed in February 2019 by the government and fourteen armed groups, raised hopes of peace. The violence has not stopped, however, and political tensions are again on the rise. Through on-the-ground reporting and advocacy, Crisis Group provides concrete advice on how to navigate both the critical electoral period in late 2020 and the long term, focusing on how to persuade armed groups to lay down their weapons.

CrisisWatch Central African Republic

Unchanged Situation

Govt continued campaigns against rebels and strengthened its political hand ahead of local elections; foreign nationals faced repression. 

Large-scale offensives against rebels continued. Govt, supported by Russian paramilitary Africa Corps (previously Wagner Group) and ethnic Azandé militia, continued operations that began late May against Fulani-led Unity for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) in Haut-Mbomou prefecture; army drove UPC from area it had controlled for five years, captured two key leaders and by 8 June seized approximately 100 weapons and disarmed 80 UPC soldiers. Offensive raised concerns over increased insecurity in Haut-Mbomou as UPC fighters crossed into neighbouring DR Congo – potentially reorganising for counterattack – and of possible targeting of Fulani and Muslim civilians accused of backing rebels. Civilians suffered collateral damage from other govt-rebel conflicts. In Haute-Kotto prefecture, Coalition of Patriots for Change rebels 2 June burned houses in three villages in Ouadda sub-prefecture, forcing residents to flee after accusing them of supporting army. Meanwhile, 115 anti-Balaka militia fighters 22 June voluntarily disarmed in Kouango town, Ouaka prefecture, amid army-Russian paramilitary deployment.

Political tensions continued as govt pursued manoeuvres to solidify control. Discontent remained high in some areas like Haut-Ubangi region, where opposition enjoys support, after President Touadéra 30 May bypassed constitutional requirement to hold elections for regional governors, citing electoral commission’s financial difficulties, and appointed them directly. Opposition alliance 13 June reiterated it would boycott municipal elections due in Oct; earlier, French Ambassador to Bangui 6 June urged participation, warning of risk of permanent exclusion from political landscape, causing discontent within opposition. UN electoral adviser 4-14 June led delegation to capital Bangui to assess preparations.

Amid Russian influence, foreign nationals faced repression. Court 21 June charged Belgian-Portuguese national working for American NGO with six crimes, including terrorism, following his May arrest in Zemio town, Haut-Mbomou, reportedly ordered by Russian paramilitaries. Authorities 10 June arrested two French-Algerian nationals in Bangui as prosecutors charged them with mercenary activities; Russian propaganda networks widely broadcasted arrest. Civil society platform led by pro-Russian figure following day organised demonstration attended by around 100 in capital to condemn foreign interference and express solidarity with army.

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