Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a violent takeover of power in 2013. The aftermath saw widespread violence as armed militia fought each other and took revenge on the population. The March 2016 election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra brought an initial lull, but was followed by more fighting in late 2016 and early 2017 between armed groups including ex-Seleka factions and anti-balaka militias – both controlling vast areas of the country. Lasting peace is still some way off as neither the new government nor the large UN force have the means to force armed groups to negotiate and disarm. Crisis Group works to reduce the risk of large flare-ups and help defuse the country’s many conflicts, encouraging international actors to work to weaken armed groups and improve the chances of effective negotiation.
A February 2019 agreement is the latest in a string of attempts to bring peace to the Central African Republic. Will it hold? Crisis Group expert Hans de Marie Heungoup goes to the country to find out, along with photographer Julie David de Lossy.
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.
A deal to end six years of war in the Central African Republic could come unglued if not strengthened. The government should hold signatory armed groups accountable to criteria for improved behaviour and back local peace initiatives. Neighbours should push armed groups to cease provocations.
Resurgent armed groups in Central African Republic are killing many civilians and causing widespread displacement. Government forces and the UN are in a weak position, and there are no quick solutions. To contain the violence, the government and international actors must agree on a roadmap for peace with armed groups that combines both incentives and coercive measures.
In Central African Republic, the conflict between armed groups is now compounded by a conflict between armed communities. The roadmap to end the crisis including elections late 2015 presents only a short-term answer and risks exacerbating existing tensions. The transitional authorities and their international partners must address crucial issues by implementing a comprehensive disarmament policy and reaffirming that Muslims belong within the nation.
Away from the international spotlight, the Central African Republic’s rural areas are turning into fields of violence as war over territory and livestock hits a highly vulnerable population, with effects increasingly felt in neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.
To stabilise the Central African Republic (CAR), the transitional government and its international partners need to prioritise, alongside security, action to fight corruption and trafficking of natural resources, as well as revive the economy.
Sensible, inclusive regulation of pastoralism that has mitigated tension in parts of the Sahel should be extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflicts have worsened with the southward expansion of pastoralism.
Russia is intensifying its relationships in Africa and [the Central African Republic] is one of their entry points. The government is weak so it’s an easy target.
International mobilization [in the Central African Republic] is much, much slower than the deterioration of the situation on the ground.
The main risk [of the escalating violence in Central African Republic] is really to come back to a conflict like it was in 2013, very close to a kind of civil war.
There is a risk that the process of negotiation [in the Central African Republic] around disarmament becomes bogged down and justice, including through the Special Criminal Court, accelerates.
Against the supposed Christian versus Muslim logic of this conflict [in the Central African Republic], we now see Muslim groups fighting Muslim groups, divided on ethnic lines and fighting for territory.
The U.N. Security Coucil approved a resolution to extend the mandate of the U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2018, also increasing the mission’s troop ceiling by 900. Richard Moncrieff, Project Director for Central Africa, states that the Central African Republic needs more than just troops to meet the country's security challenges.
Originally published in World Politics Review
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
En Centrafrique, le statu quo qui a suivi l'investiture du président Touadéra en mars 2016 est déjà remis en cause. Les tensions montent tandis que le blocage est total sur l’accord de désarmement, démobilisation et réinsertion, nœud gordien de la crise centrafricaine. Tout doit être mis en œuvre lors de la conférence des donateurs pour la Centrafrique, qui se déroule le 17 novembre à Bruxelles, pour éviter une nouvelle tentative de déstabilisation, voire un renversement du pouvoir.