28 Sep 2015
Too little, too late: Failing to prevent atrocities in the Central African Republic

Since December 2012 the Central African Republic (CAR) has endured the worst crisis in its long history of armed rebellion, coups d'etat, mutinies, foreign intervention and human suffering. Following the overthrow of President Francois Bozizé by the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance on 24 March 2013, the group's fighters perpetrated widespread and systematic violations of human rights. The Séléka especially targeted the majority Christian population, and their abuses led to the emergence of anti-balaka militias who, in turn, focused their vengeance upon civilians from CAR's Muslim minority. All parties to the conflict have committed mass atrocity crimes, including targeted killings on the basis of religious identity.

This occasional paper from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect analyzes the international response to human rights violations and mass atrocities in CAR. Despite clear warnings of the threat of atrocities due to growing armed conflict, the international response was woefully inadequate on all levels. The case of CAR demonstrates that despite considerable normative progress since the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect at the 2005 UN World Summit, the international community still struggles in its ability to translate early warning into timely and effective response.

The crisis in CAR is far from over. If the international community is serious about preventing yet another relapse into violent conflict, the focus must be on long-term engagement with the transitional authorities and people of CAR. This will be the true test of the global commitment to upholding the Responsibility to Protect in the Central African Republic.