Populations at Risk Imminent Risk

Central African Republic

Civilians in the Central African Republic remain at risk of mass atrocity crimes committed by "anti-balaka" militias, ex-Séléka rebels and other armed groups.
BACKGROUND: Sporadic violence against civilians continues throughout the Central African Republic (CAR) despite the deployment of French forces, a UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA) and an EU military assistance mission (EUMAM-RCA).

The Muslim population of CAR has been systematically targeted by predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias. Formed largely in response to abuses by the former Séléka rebel alliance, the predominantly Muslim armed group who overthrew former President François Bozizé on 24 March 2013, anti-balaka militias have conducted widespread attacks against Muslim civilians for nearly two years.

According to the UN there are still approximately 30,000 Muslim civilians trapped in seven besieged communities throughout the country. These enclaves have been systematically encircled by the anti-balaka, subjected to attack, and cut off from food and medical supplies.

A 19 December 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry estimated at least 80 percent of CAR's Muslim population had been driven out of the country. The Commission concluded that crimes committed by the anti-balaka constitute a "policy of ethnic cleansing" against CAR's Muslims. A 31 July 2015 report by Amnesty International documents how the anti-balaka have barred Muslims who have returned from practicing their religion and have forced many into conversion.

Despite some improvement of the security situation in Bangui, sporadic violence continues. On 2 and 3 August MINUSCA conducted operations to arrest an armed group leader in the PK5 market area, resulting in the deaths of at least two civilians and one peacekeeper.

The situation in the interior of the country is marked by widespread insecurity and ongoing human rights violations despite the Bangui National Forum, held from 4 to 11 May, during which ten armed groups agreed to lay down their weapons. At least 19 people were killed in clashes between the anti-balaka and ex-Séléka factions in central prefectures between 1 and 3 August. Attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are on the rise in western prefectures, including along the Main Supply Route, which links CAR to Cameroon.

There are currently more than 368,000 IDPs in CAR and over 462,000 refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 2.7 million people remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Only thirty-one percent of the humanitarian appeal has been funded for 2015, and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator has warned that essential activities risk being shut down. The transitional government, led by interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, is struggling to manage the ongoing crisis.

ANALYSIS: After March 2013 the state effectively collapsed. More than two years later, national security forces remain unable to prevent attacks by various armed groups without the assistance of international forces. A lack of capacity also hinders MINUSCA's ability to protect civilians throughout CAR. The scaling down of the French force poses additional operational challenges for MINUSCA.

Sporadic fighting between the anti-balaka, armed Muslim self-defense groups and other armed groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, continues to pose a risk to civilians, including in Bangui. The country remains effectively partitioned, with anti-balaka controlling territory in western CAR and ex-Séléka factions controlling territory in the east. Violence between nomadic pastoralists and settled agriculturalist communities in the transhumance corridor also continues. Some armed groups continue to exploit natural resources to fund their activities.

On 22 April the National Transitional Council adopted a law to establish a Special Criminal Court (SCC), which will be responsible for investigating crimes committed since 2003. Despite this, sporadic attacks on civilians continue to be conducted openly and without fear of sanction.

Representatives of various armed groups and political parties have contested the outcome of the Bangui National Forum. The fragmentation of the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka will prove challenging for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Preparing to hold elections without significant improvements in security, accountability and political dialogue will only increase the risk of further mass atrocity crimes.

CAR's transitional government is unable to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and requires sustained international assistance.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: Following the deadly surge in violence during late 2013, the international community intensified its response to the crisis in CAR, including passing five UNSC resolutions between October 2013 and January 2015 that emphasized the interim government's responsibility to protect the civilian population. [For response prior to March 2015, see GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation in CAR.]

On 15 March the EU ended the mandate of its peacekeeping force and withdrew from Bangui. A smaller EU-led Military Advisory Mission, or EUMAM-RCA, became operational on 16 March and is assisting with security sector reform.

The UNSC passed Resolution 2212 on 26 March, authorizing an increase of 1,030 personnel for MINUSCA. On 28 April the UNSC passed Resolution 2217, which renewed MINUSCA's mandate for one year and recalled the primary responsibility of the CAR authorities to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

On 22 June the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) appointed an independent expert panel to review how the UN handled allegations of sexual abuse against children by French and African peacekeepers. On 12 August the UNSG requested that his Special Representative and head of MINUSCA Babacar Gaye tender his resignation over ongoing allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers in CAR.

On 12 August ECCAS endorsed an additional extension of the transitional government and delayed elections initially scheduled for 18 October to 30 December.

NECESSARY ACTION: UN and French forces must forcibly disarm all armed groups that threaten civilians. MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable populations lack sufficient protection. The UN and humanitarian actors must facilitate the evacuation and relocation of all civilians who wish to leave besieged areas.

The UN Security Council should immediately sanction additional individuals responsible for inciting, facilitating, or committing mass atrocity crimes.

Urgent resources are needed to establish the SCC and ensure accountability for mass atrocity crimes. MINUSCA should prioritize the arrest of individuals responsible for atrocities and other serious human rights violations. MINUSCA must also ensure incidents involving the death of civilians are thoroughly investigated. MINUSCA should publicly report on the ongoing situation of human rights protection in CAR.

Last Updated: 15 August 2015