Central African Republic (2014 – first combat deaths)
The Conflict at a Glance:
Who (are the main combatants): Since the 2013 coup and the collapse of the Séléka regime, the government of the Central African Republic has attempted to transition to peace, supported by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) and troops from the EU and France.
Opposing CAR state authority are two major militias: the predominantly Muslim ex-Séléka Alliance that targets Christian communities and the predominantly Christian vigilante group, Anti-Balaka (“machete-proof”), that mainly attacks Muslim communities. The 3R rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and community defence groups also operate in the country.
What (started the conflict): The conflict is rooted in longstanding economic, religious, and geographic divisions, and the underdevelopment of the northeast. Fifty per cent of the population is Christian (evenly divided between Protestant and Catholic), 15 per cent Muslim, and 35 per cent hold indigenous beliefs, heavily influenced by Christianity (CIA World Factbook). Historically, Christians have been farmers, while the Muslims have been itinerant herders. The movement of herds has caused clashes with settled farmers.
In 1993, Ange-Félix Patassé succeeded André Kolingba as president. Patassé was reelected in 1999 in what is considered the country’s only democratic, peaceful election since independence from France in 1960. In 2003, François Bozizé led a successful French- and Chadian-backed coup against Patassé. In 2005, the Bozizé government began a counterinsurgency against rebel groups that protested regional economic marginalization and insecurity. State military forces were accused of severe human rights abuses, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians, the burning of thousands of villages, and the displacement of more than 200,000 people. Although peace talks were held in 2008, Bozizé failed to uphold disarmament agreements and withdrew from government power-sharing in 2013 (International Crisis Group). In March, the Séléka, an alliance of Muslim rebel factions, overthrew Bozizé and Michel Djotodia became the country’s first Muslim president. Within six months, the country disintegrated into chaos.
When (has the fighting occurred): In September 2013, President Djotodia’s alliance was disbanded. Christian Anti-Balaka vigilantes engaged in ethnic cleansing against Muslim civilians and ex-Séléka fighters. In 2014, President Djotodia resigned and was replaced with an interim Christian president, Catherine Samba-Panza (2014-2016). In March 2016, former Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra (2008-2013) was elected president in a peaceful election that international observers classified as free and fair.
Citizens lack access to judicial services and the government has not taken steps to investigate and prosecute military or government officials who have violated human rights. Civilian authorities do not effectively control security forces, and state authority barely exists outside Bangui, the capital city. Armed groups control vast swaths of territory. The struggle for power and autonomy continues with arbitrary and unlawful killings by the ex-Seleka and Anti-Balaka groups (State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, Central African Republic). Rebels once loyal to the Séléka have splintered into factions that now clash over territory and control of resources. Armed conflict has displaced one-quarter of the population, creating 40,000 refugees and twice that many internally displaced persons (Council on Foreign Relations).
Where (has the conflict taken place): Fighting has occurred across the country, but particularly in Bossangoa (capital of Ouham prefecture) and the capital city, Bangui. In late 2014, violence escalated in the central region and ethnic cleansing of Muslims occurred in several prefectures across western CAR, including the sub-prefecture of Bocaranga and village of Bossemptélé (Ouham-Pendé prefecture); the town of Baoro and Bawi commune (Nana-Mambéré prefecture); the towns of Yaloke, Bouali, and Bossembélé and village of Boyali (Ombella-M’Poko prefecture); the town of Boda (Lobaye prefecture); as well as in Bangui. Attacks on Christians have occurred in the town of Baoro (Nana-Mambéré prefecture), Bata commune (Lobaye prefecture), and the village of Sibut (capital of Kémo prefecture). At the end of 2016, reports indicated violence occurring in the PK5 district of Bangui, the parish of Ngaoundaye (Ouham-Pendé prefecture, northwest CAR), the town of Kaga Bandoro and village of Ndomete (Nana-Grébizi prefecture, central CAR), and the town of Bria (capital of Haute-Kotto prefecture, central CAR).
2017 In 2017, more intense violence by Muslim and Christian armed coalitions and militias in the Central African Republic resulted in an increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to 700,000, 60 per cent more than in 2016. Although the CAR government attempted to address interfaith tensions, the 2013 coup had fundamentally limited effective government control to the capital Bangui.
During the year, the humanitarian situation became significantly worse. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called the situation in CAR “one of the most neglected humanitarian tragedies in our world today.” At the beginning of 2018, the ICRC estimated that more than half the country needed humanitarian assistance and that approximately a million people had been displaced by the conflict. But delivering aid and health services continued to be difficult and hazardous. Fourteen aid workers were killed in CAR in 2017. As of September 2017, only $17.8-million of the $209.2-million requested by the United Nations to support CAR humanitarian efforts had been raised.
2016 A concerted peacekeeping effort by the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA), the French military (Operation Sangaris) and African Union forces has provided marginal stability. However, many rural towns and villages experienced looting and violence from militias and factions associated with the former Séléka and Anti-Balaka. Reformed Séléka and Anti-Balaka bands routinely terrorized civilian populations. The need for an overarching national security force remained at the forefront of domestic political debate (Reuters). There were forty-one allegations of sexual abuse against French Forces and MINUSCA peacekeepers. The International Crisis Group warned that violent incidents–such as the killings in Ngaoundaye and Kaga Bandoro–would continue if the new president could not reach a disarmament deal with the rebel groups that held regional control (International Crisis Group).
2015 The country remained divided into the Anti-Balaka west, and an east and north controlled by former Séléka forces (“ex-Séléka”). Central CAR saw ongoing clashes between the two sides as well as engagements between armed groups and international forces. Fighting between Christians and Muslims escalated after September 26, when a Muslim cab driver was killed in Bangui. The first round of presidential elections took place at the end of December and was relatively peaceful.
2014 Ethnic cleansing of Muslims marked the year; some areas were left with no Muslims. The year was more violent than 2013, with violence particularly high in January and February. A ceasefire was signed in July, but fighting continued. Interim president Catherine Samba-Panza was appointed in January, with the hope that formal elections would be held in summer 2015. The MISCA mission was replaced by MINUSCA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic), a formal UN peacekeeping mission. In September the International Criminal Court announced that it would investigate human rights abuses in the CAR.
2013 Over 400,000 civilians were displaced within CAR or fled as refugees to neighbouring countries, as ex-Séléka and Anti-Balaka soldiers continued to commit atrocities across the country. Violence peaked on December 4 and 5 when approximately 1,200 people were killed in fighting in Bossangoa. This prompted a UN Security Council resolution and agreements by the International Support Mission for CAR (MISCA) that included France sending 1,600 soldiers and MISCA increasing its presence to 6,000 troops. President Bozizé’s failure to respect bilateral peace and disarmament agreements made between 2007 and 2012, led to a successful coup in March 2013 after four months of fighting. Subsequently, the situation spiraled out of control, with accusations of crimes against humanity perpetrated against civilian populations by rebel groups and vigilantes with near total impunity. Following the coup, Michel Djotodia, the leader of Séléka, became the self-proclaimed president of CAR and began to establish transitional institutions. In August he was formally sworn in as President. International Crisis Group reported that despite the transitional government’s efforts, the security situation deteriorated quickly as Séléka soldiers carried out attacks against civilians in August in spite of orders to disarm. As a result, Djotodia dissolved the alliance in September. In reaction to violent acts in the major urban centers of Bossangoa and Bangui, an anti-Séléka vigilante group named “Anti-Balaka” (anti-machete) began attacks on the Muslim population.
Type of conflict
Parties to the conflict
1. The Government of CAR: From January 2014 to March 2016, Catherine Samba-Panza served as interim president. Former Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra (2008-13) has been President since March 2016.
After taking power in the 2013 coup, Séléka leader Michel Djotodia attempted to restore order by forming the National Transitional Council, working with MICOPAX (initiative from the Economic Community of Central African States), and ordering Séléka rebels to disarm. These efforts failed and Djotodia stepped down at the end of the year.
2. Central African Armed Forces / Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA): Civilian authorities do not effectively control security forces and have not prosecuted military officials involved in human rights crimes in the chaos that followed the 2013 Séléka coup. According to The Military Balance 2017, the armed forces consist of 7,150 active military personnel, of which 7,000 belong to the Army and 150 to the Air Force. CAR also has 1,000 paramilitary personnel and selective two-year conscription after which troops are obligated to remain as reservists (The Military Balance, 2017).
3. International peacekeeping forces, past and present:
a) Mission de Consolidation de la Paix en Centrafrique (MICOPAX), 2008-2013: In July 2008, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS/CEEAC) began MICOPAX to contribute to durable peace and security by creating preconditions for sustainable development. Its mandate was to protect CAR civilians, secure territory, contribute to the national reconciliation process, and facilitate the political dialogue initiated by President Bozizé.
b) International Support Mission for CAR (MISCA), 2013-2014: MISCA was formed in July 2013 under the leadership of Chad and the African Union and supported by countries across the AU and Europe. By December 2013, 1,600 French soldiers had arrived in CAR as part of the MISCA mission.
c) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), 2014 to present: In September 2014, UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA took over from MISCA. The mission absorbed staff from the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (Bureau intégré de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en Centrafrique – BINUCA) and includes many former MISCA troops. MINUSCA has a broad mandate, including protecting civilians, promoting human rights and justice, and supporting the transitional government. Its budget for July 2016 to June 2017 is $920,727,900. In 2017 the mission was authorized to have 12,870 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 10,750 military personnel and 2,080 police personnel. This was a slight increase from the original authorization of 11,820 personnel.
4. Former Séléka (Alliance) rebels, known as “ex-Séléka”: After the Bush War (2004-2007), the Bozizé government signed a peace deal with the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) rebels. In 2012, a new alliance of rebel groups, the Séléka, accused the government of failing to abide by the peace agreement. By the end of the year, Séléka had captured many towns and in March 2013, seized the capital and declared their leader, Michel Djotodia, president. Over the next months, armed conflict broke out between Séléka and the Anti-Balaka militia. In September 2013, Djotodia formally disbanded Séléka to signal support for MISCA. However ex-Séléka rebel factions have continued to operate in the absence of central leadership.
Ex-Séléka Factions include:
- Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC),
- Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of the Central African Republic (RPRC),
- Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC),
- Democratic Front for the Central African Republic People (FDPC),
- Movement of Central African Republic Liberators for Justice (MLCJ),
- Patriotic Movement for the Central African Republic (MPC) (Congressional Research Service).
Authorities attempted to integrate former Séléka soldiers into a new national army. However, military commanders have not been able to control them and ex-Séléka have continued to commit human rights abuses (Human Rights Watch).
5. Anti-Balaka (“machete-proof” or “anti-machete”) groups: After the March 2013 coup, Christian militias claiming to be self-defence groups formed to oppose Séléka atrocities. In the following months, Anti-Balaka militias launched a program of ethnic cleansing that constituted crimes against humanity and resulted in mass displacement of CAR’s Muslim population. Although the Anti-Balaka militias have no formal structure, there are some leaders. In November 2014, some of these leaders announced their transition into a political party called the Central African Party for Unity and Development (PCUD) and pledged to disarm. The Anti-Balaka include child soldiers in their ranks.
As well as other rebel groups
6. Revolution and Justice (RJ): Led by Armel Sayo Bedaya (formerly involved with the FACA), RJ became active in late 2013. RJ formed near the Chadian border from members of the now defunct Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy. RJ was considered a threat to northern communities in 2014. Its stated goals were tranquility and stability.
7. Union of Central African Armed Forces for Recovery (UFACAR): Formed in June 2014 by Bozizé supporters, this group controls areas in the provinces of Nana Mambéré and Mambéré-Kadéi. UFACAR has attempted to recruit former CAR troops. Their stated purpose is to support constitutional order.
8. Organization of Muslim Resistance of the Central African Republic (ORMC or OMRC): Formed in May 2014, the ORMC aims to defend Muslims and announced its intention to march on Bangui. ORMC emerged from the Séléka and has 5,000 members.
9. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA): A rebel group that originated in northern Uganda in 1988 (The Guardian), the LRA has been accused of gross human rights violations including abducting, maiming, and killing civilians in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. In 2016, there were 28 reports of LRA-related violence in the CAR and DRC (LRA Crisis Tracker).
10. Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation Group (3R): Formed in 2016, 3R has reportedly killed and displaced scores of citizens in western areas of the country. The group is said to consist of Muslim cattle herders who came together to combat Christian Anti-Balaka militias. According to a UN official, the group has been seen fighting other armed groups for regional control (Al Jazeera).
11. Other armed groups: Many other groups are active in CAR, including ethnic militias, such as armed Fulani groups and the Popular Front for Recovery (FPR), which was established to protect the Peuhl ethnic group.
Status of fighting
2017 In January and February 2017, fighting between Seleka factions increased in the central and eastern parts of the country as various groups sought to increase their control over resource-rich territories. In February, the CAR government appointed Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a prosecutor on the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid court comprised of both CAR and international judges to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes since 2003.
Factions of the established Seleka and Anti-Balaka groups, including the FPRC and the UPC, carried out attacks. In interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch in late January 2017, victims of UPC crimes and their relatives disclosed that approximately 39 people had been executed and another 29 killed during disputes between the militant groups. The UPC was apparently targeting those they believed to be members and supporters of the Anti-Balaka. Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm the deaths.
In May, UN officials reported that hundreds of Muslim civilians were seeking refuge in religious buildings in the town of Bangassou because of ongoing attacks by Christian militias, which had killed as many as 30 civilians.
The UN base in Bangassou was also targeted, prompting the deployment of extra troops to the town. This attack was against the individuals party to the MINUSCA mission, with six killed; in 2017, 14 UN peacekeepers were killed. These attacks followed the exit of Ugandan and French soldiers whose missions had ended, causing security voids.
2016 In February, the UN-imposed pre-disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process (DDR) begun in Kaga Bandoro. Former armed group members were offered $4 a day to participate in community service work once they turned in their weapons. In the first week, 130 combatants turned in their arms in return for paid community service. This process is supported by $6-million in UN funding (VoA News). Government-brokered DDR had not yet begun.
Despite February’s peaceful presidential election, intercommunal violence and illicit activities persisted with impunity; an absence of central authority remained a major cause of instability in CAR. In rebel- controlled regions outside of Bangui violence, looting, and racketeering continued. In June, violence erupted between Anti-Balaka-backed farmers and ex- Séléka-backed livestock herders in the northwestern province of Ngaoundaye. Thousands of residents were forced to flee to neighbouring Cameroon or Chad (IRIN). The northwest and central belt of the country were frontlines for warring parties; revenge killings by ex- Séléka rebels and Anti-Balaka militias were reported throughout CAR (Human Rights Watch). Anti-Balaka and ex- Séléka continued to splinter into regionally autonomous factions that instigated civil unrest and violence (ACLED; European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS)).
Attacks on displaced populations, humanitarian workers, and peacekeepers continued (USAID). In mid-June, several deadly confrontations took place between MINUSCA and armed men in the capital’s Muslim PK5 district, increasing local tensions (UN News Centre). On October 12, Séléka rebels attacked an IDP camp in Kaga-Bandoro and killed 37 people using machine guns and machetes (Human Rights Watch).
The onset of the dry season in November increased the mobility of armed groups and the number of attacks against villages and banditry on main roads. Thanks to a territorial partition around Ngaoundaye, Koui, Yelewa, Markounda and Kabo, ex- Séléka groups further entrenched themselves in some areas and consolidated their finances by banning government administration. The ex- Séléka and Anti-Balaka fragments started to regroup (International Crisis Group).
2015 The European Union Force mission ended on March 15 and was replaced by military advisors. MINUSCA forces added 750 soldiers, 280 police, and 20 corrections officers in March and a further 1,140 personnel in November (International Crisis Watch).
On February 10, MINUSCA and French Sangaris forces successfully expelled ex-Séléka forces from Bria, Haute Kotto. Clashes between MINUSCA peacekeepers and anti-balaka forces in Bangui injured 70 students on June 3. On August 2, MINUSCA initiated an operation in the PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui. Later reports claimed that a peacekeeper raped a 12-year-old girl during the mission (ForeignPolicy.com). A MINUSCA peacekeeper later killed four colleagues and wounded eight others before killing himself.
Violence escalated during the second half of the year. Major fighting from August 20 to 24 between ex-Séléka and Anti-Balaka groups left at least 15 dead and 20 injured (International Crisis Watch). Violence between Christians and Muslims in Bangui intensified after the September 26 killing of a Muslim taxi driver. In the month following the attack, International Crisis Group reported that 70 people had been killed and tens of thousands displaced in the CAR’s capital city(International Crisis Watch). MINUSCA forces were caught in the middle of the ongoing violence.
2014 Attacks against Muslims increased; Anti-Balaka attacks forced many Muslims to leave their communities. IRIN News reported that attacks on trucks and other security concerns made it difficult for aid workers to supply aid and evacuate people. Early in the year, the UN released a report stating that there was no genocide, noting a lack of intent. However, Amnesty International has raised concerns about ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the CAR. ACLED reported that violence was higher than in 2013, and that January and February were particularly violent. A ceasefire beginning on July 23 had little effect as clashes continued. A UN report in July concluded that the CAR is essentially partitioned, with Anti-Balaka militias operating in the west and Séléka in the east.
2013 Séléka factions, other rebel groups and Anti-Balaka soldiers were accused of crimes against humanity, as they killed civilians, abducted and raped women, and pillaged and burned down entire villages with near total impunity across the country after the government lost complete power in March. An estimated 5,000 Séléka rebels overtook the Presidential Palace, with chaos ensuing when Séléka troops ceased following orders from the self-proclaimed President Michel Djotodia. The army of President Bozizé, including many members of his Republican Guard, quickly abandonned him, and some later joined Séléka and Anti-Balaka groups. Many armed groups had no goal other than short-term immediate gain. Amnesty International reported that both ex-Séléka and Anti-Balaka rebels had child soldiers in their ranks. Fighting on December 4 and 5 was the deadliest to date, resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people. Previously, Human Rights Watch reported Anti-Balaka fighters killed 57 people in a town east of Bossangoa in one raid.
Number of dead and displaced
Total: At the end of 2014, the UN commission of inquiry suggested that between 3,000 and 6,000 people had been killed in the CAR conflict, but this estimate is likely low. ACLED reported 4,645 conflict-related deaths from 2014 to 2016, a figure that rose to 10,122 deaths when the years from 1997 on were included (ACLED, All Africa Files, Version 7 [1997-2016] standard file). Four hundred and thirty-four thousand people have been internally displaced since the conflict began (Amnesty International).
2017 During 2017, Human Rights Watch documented the killing of at least 249 civilians between May and September; however, they suspect the actual number of dead is much higher. On March 20-21, at least 20 people, including civilians and children, were killed in clashes between Seleka and Anti-Balaka in the Mbomou prefecture.
By the end of 2017, there were approximately 688,700 IDPs. The total number of individuals seeking refuge in surrounding states rose to 543,000, according to the UNHCR.
2016 ACLED reported 515 conflict-related combatant and noncombatant deaths in 2016, a slight increase from the previous year (ACLED, All Africa Files, Version 7 [1997-2016] standard file). A 2016/17 Amnesty report indicated that there were more than 500 civilian deaths this year (Amnesty International). According to the UN OCHA, there were 384, 884 internally displaced people and 12,785 refugees.
Refugees and IDPs: The International Crisis Group reported that 466,000 refugees from CAR have sought asylum in Cameroon, Chad, and the DRC since the start of the conflict (International Crisis Group).
2015 ACLED reported 484 conflict-related deaths in 2015, less than one-sixth the number from the previous year (ACLED, All Africa Files, Version 6 (1997-2015) standard file).
Refugees and IDPs: The UNHCR reported 470,568 refugees, 10,157 asylum seekers, and 368,859 internally displaced people originating from the Central African Republic (UNHCR).
2014 ACLED reported more than 3,000 people killed. According to aid workers in CAR, this total might not include Muslims who were carried to mosques or buried without having been taken to hospitals.
Refugees and IDPs: At the beginning of 2015, IRIN indicated that there were 438,538 internally displaced persons in CAR and 423,300 refugees, most fleeing to Cameroon and Chad (IRIN). An increased number of Muslims left the country; some areas of CAR reportedly had lost all Muslim residents.
2013 ACLED reported 2,556 conflict-related deaths in 2013 (ACLED, All Africa Files, Version 6 [1997-2015] standard file).
Refugees and IDPs: UNHCR estimated that there were 206,000 internally displaced persons and 221,577 refugees from CAR in 2013.
2017 In February 2016, a new president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was elected. The new government replaced the transitional government that was instituted in 2014. Among the new regime’s top priorities were plans to grow the economy by attracting foreign investors and developing more remote provinces. As Human Rights Watch recognized, this government was successful in keeping the capital city and surrounding areas in the southwestern region under control.
In June 2017, the CAR government joined with more than a dozen armed groups in signing a peace deal that was brokered in Rome. However, the deal fell apart when violence erupted in the town of Bria the following day.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR was scheduled to end in November, but the UN Secretary-General recommended the continuation of the mandate and an additional 900 troops. The recommendation was approved and the mission was extended until November 15, 2018.
2016 On March 30, Faustin-Archange Touadéra was inaugurated as President, replacing interim President, Catherine Samba-Panza, who had led the government since 2013. After a comfortable electoral victory, President Touadéra soon faced criticism for his lack of tangible progress on the CAR’s major challenges: the growing refugee crisis, an unaccountable judicial system, disarmament, and the transition to peace. Resentment against MINUSCA also ran high, with frequent criticisms from civil society, parliamentarians, and the press; petitions against UN contingents accused them of collusion with armed groups and an anti-MINUSCA protest ended in violence, killing four. On October 31, France’s military mission Sangaris ended. By November, most civil society and religious groups, such as the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC) and the Union for Central African Renewal (URCA), had expressed frustration over Touadéra’s inability to settle outstanding DDR negotiations, specifically the integration of armed ex-rebels into the national army. Hard-line ex-Séléka actors did not take part in fall DDR discussions in Bangui. International observers, including the International Crisis Group, also expressed concerns about the fragility of the country and the new government (International Crisis Group).
On November 17, the European Union, in partnership with the CAR government, convened the Brussels Donors Conference to discuss challenges of CAR governance and development. The CAR government requested a joint effort from the UN, World Bank, and EU. The Donors Conference was a relative success, raising €2-billion for the CAR from international donors including the EU, UN, IMF, World Bank, France, and the United States (Euractiv).
2015 In January, Anti-Balaka and Séléka leaders held negotiations in Nairobi. On January 26, the two sides reached an agreement that included an amnesty for perpetrators of violence and an end to the current transitional authorities. The UN and CAR government both opposed the agreement. In March, the International Contact Group, a group of governments and regional and international organizations providing political support for the transition process, accepted the draft constitution written by CAR’s transitional parliament.
The Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation took place May 4-11. Stakeholders included not only political elites based in Bangui, but refugees and the diaspora (Report of the Secretary General on the situation in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA). The Bangui Forum recommended the delaying of elections and the extension of the interim government’s mandate. On June 16, the country’s electoral authority announced that parliamentary and presidential elections would take place on October 18, with the second round of presidential elections in late November. Ultimately, the first round was held on December 30, with results announced in 2016. The election was relatively peaceful.
In late April, the international media published a leaked report alleging that French peacekeepers sexually abused children. Two investigations, one by French authorities and one by Central African Republic authorities, were initiated.
2014 Djotodia resigned as president in January and the mayor of Bangui, Catherine Samba-Panza, was appointed interim president. Elections were scheduled for the summer of 2015. Peacekeeping forces were accused of several human rights violations. In March, Congolese MISCA forces were accused of “the enforced disappearance” of a number of people. Chadian forces left the country in April after allegations of violence, including a market attack in March (later claimed by Anti-Balaka forces). In September, MISCA and BINUCA were replaced by UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA, although many personnel remained on from the previous missions. In February, the International Criminal Court began a preliminary investigation into human rights abuses in CAR; a formal investigation opened in September. In November, the Anti-Balaka announced their transformation into a political movement, the Central African Party for Unity and Development (PCUD).
2013 In January, the increasingly paranoid president ignored an agreement with Séléka rebels to continue peace talks and disarmament efforts. In March, the leader of Séléka, Michel Djotodia, overthrew the Bozizé government. The new government made several attempts to regain control of CAR and appease the international community, but these efforts failed, resulting in the dissolution of the Séléka in September. Ex-Séléka fighters remained active in independent groups. Militias acted with near impunity across the country, while MISCA peacekeepers and French soldiers struggled to keep the peace between ex-Séléka and Anti-Balaka militias.
The political situation in the Central African Republic has been complex since its independence from France in 1960, with a history of coups and only one peaceful change of government. François Bozizé, who became president in a coup d’état in 2003, legitimized his power in the 2005 election. In the meantime, rebel opposition groups became concerned about regional marginalization and insecurity. The government began a counterinsurgency campaign in 2005. For the next two years, the state military forces were accused of severe human rights abuses, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians, the burning of tens of thousands of villages, and the displacement of more than 200,000 people. In 2008, peace talks led to an agreement to disarm by two of the main rebel groups. Following a national political dialogue, the process culminated in the creation of a national government of unity in 2009 and an independent electoral commission. The failure of President Bozizé to commit to the results of the national dialogue and subsequent disarmament talks and power-sharing arrangements led to the overthrow of his government in March 2013.
The CAR conflict has a complex interplay of factors. There are religious dimensions: the ex-Séléka have many Muslim members and have disproportionately targeted Christians; the anti-balaka are largely Christian with some animist members and have mainly targeted Muslims. However, the top Muslim and Christian religious leaders in the CAR have repeatedly stated that the militia groups do not represent their religions, calling the conflict politically motivated. Other contributing factors include the particular underdevelopment of the country’s northeast and transhumance. The movement of pastoralists with their herds into the CAR from Chad and other countries can cause clashes with farmers. Muslims are sometimes referred to as Chadian in the CAR, even if they have never lived in Chad. Descendants of Chadian immigrants are often perceived as foreign, as are all Muslims on occasion. Reports of fighters speaking Arabic (a language spoken in the extreme northeast of the country) and the presence of many troops from Chad and Sudan in the ex- Séléka ranks fuel division.
The Conflict Armament Research reported in 2014 that many Séléka arms were taken from former government supplies, and that these arms have continued to spread to various actors in the conflict. They also found that Sudan had provided the Séléka with weapons, including vehicles that had not been seen in the country prior to 2013 and ammunition manufactured in 2013. The report suggested that weapons manufactured by China, possibly Iran, and in Europe were transferred to the Central African Republic through Sudan and other nearby countries.
According to the Enough Project, the anti-balaka originally possessed only unsophisticated weaponry, including “single-shot hunting rifles, machetes, spears, and bows.” However, as the conflict continued, they were joined by former army members and their armaments became more sophisticated. They gained weapons in clashes with the Séléka. Human Rights Watch witnessed anti-balaka groups with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47s. Conflict Armament Research noted that anti-balaka ammunition includes shotgun rounds from Spain, Italy, and Cameroon.
Fighters in the CAR have machine guns, mortar tubes, shotguns, and RPG rockets and launchers. Of particular note are Chinese-manufactured grenades, seemingly intended originally for Nepalese use, which are extremely cheap and widely held by Séléka, anti-balaka, and civilian forces. Observers fear that the wide availability of weapons in the CAR could cause it to become a supplier of illegal weapons to neighbouring countries.
The UN placed the CAR under an arms embargo at the end of 2013 in response to the breakdown of law and order. The ban has contributed to the weakness of CAR’s army, which lacks weapons. According to BBC News, the shipments from Sudan took place prior to the embargo.
The Central African Republic and Sudan have not signed or ratified the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
In 2017, the CAR spent about $26-million on military expenditures, which have been deceasing on an annual basis (SIPRI).
The Central African Republic is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranking among the bottom 10 countries on the UN Human Development Index. The World Bank predicted an almost 20 per cent decline in its GDP growth in the wake of 2013’s extreme violence.
International Crisis Group identified economic disadvantage as a key driver of the conflict and revitalization of the economy an essential prerequisite to peace. CAR has rich but largely unexploited natural resources: timber, diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. The ex-Séléka fund themselves by smuggling diamonds, poaching elephants, and looting, and purportedly have interests in Chad’s oil sector (Enough Project). The Anti-Balaka also fund many of their activities by looting and likely have some control over diamonds and gold in the regions they occupy. The UN reported that these groups are also involved in trading ivory, bush meat, and cattle. Ex-Séléka have successfully controlled some cattle markets, while Anti-Balaka often steal cattle (International Crisis Group). Cotton and coffee are the top two cash crops exported from CAR (European Commission).
The Kimberley Process, which certifies that rough diamonds as conflict-free and legitimate for international sale, banned CAR diamond exports in May 2013. Diamonds continued to be shipped out of the country. In 2015, the Kimberley Process determined that the CAR had made progress on securing the industry from rebel groups and allowed select mining facilities to export rough diamonds if they could ensure that profits wouldn’t fall into rebel hands. As of September 2015, however, rebels maintained control over various diamond extraction facilities and continued to work through middlemen and firms not associated with the Kimberley Process. According to Amnesty International, human rights abuses (summary executions, rape, enforced disappearances, widespread looting, child labour) occurred frequently around rebel-controlled mining facilities. AI urged the government to confiscate conflict diamonds and pressured multinational firms to disclose all aspects of their supply chains to avoid funding violence. Before the Kimberley ban, diamonds accounted for half of CAR’s exports (Amnesty International).
The rate of economic recovery since 2013 has been slow. GDP growth was 4.5 per cent in 2016 and 4.3 per cent in 2017 (World Bank). Exports of such goods as diamonds, gold, wood, coffee, and cotton increased in 2016.