Populations at Risk Serious Concern

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: Civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) remain at ongoing risk of mass atrocity crimes despite the largely peaceful election of a new President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, on 14 February 2016. Touadéra was inaugurated on 30 March in Bangui and the new government and Prime Minister were announced on 11 April.

The crisis in CAR began after the 24 March 2013 overthrow of President François Bozizé by the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias. A UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA), French military forces and an EU military assistance mission are presently deployed in the country.

The situation continues to be marked by insecurity. From 30 November 2015 to 15 March 2016 MINUSCA recorded 269 human rights and IHL violations. Attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are ongoing in western prefectures. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which is active in eastern and southern prefectures, also escalated its sporadic attacks from January to March, including abductions and the killing of civilians. On 17 April a MINUSCA peacekeeper was killed by civilians following a suspected LRA attack near Rafaï.

The International Commission of Inquiry (CAR-CoI) has found the anti-balaka, ex-Séléka armed groups and their supporters responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The CAR-CoI estimated that at least 80 percent of CAR's Muslim population had been driven out of the country and concluded that crimes committed by the anti-balaka constitute a "policy of ethnic cleansing" against CAR's Muslims.

There are currently more than 420,000 IDPs in CAR and over 460,000 refugees in neighboring countries. According to the UN, there are also approximately 36,000 Muslim civilians still trapped in seven besieged communities, which have been systematically encircled by the anti-balaka. An estimated 2.3 million people remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

ANALYSIS: The largely peaceful presidential and legislative elections represent important progress, but they have not resolved the underlying conflict in CAR. Armed groups may still engage in violence following the formation of the new government.

National security forces have been implicated in serious violations or abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL), and remain unable to prevent attacks by various armed groups without the assistance of international forces. The ongoing fragmentation of the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka will prove challenging for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs, for which progress has been lacking.

Hostilities between anti-balaka militias, ex-Séléka rebels, armed Muslim self-defense groups and other armed groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, continue to pose a threat to civilian populations. Violence between nomadic pastoralists and settled agriculturalist communities in the transhumance corridor also continues. Some armed groups, including the LRA, continue to illegally exploit natural resources to fund their activities.

MINUSCA continues to face critical capacity gaps that impede its ability to uphold its mandate to protect civilians throughout CAR. Ongoing allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by MINUSCA peacekeepers also erode confidence in the UN and negatively impacts mandate implementation. The scaling down of French military forces presents additional operational challenges for MINUSCA.

The new CAR government requires sustained international assistance to uphold its primary Responsibility to Protect.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: Following the deadly surge in violence during late 2013, the international community intensified its response to the crisis in CAR, including passing six UNSC resolutions between October 2013 and April 2015 that emphasized the interim government's responsibility to protect the civilian population.

On 27 January 2016 the UNSC passed Resolution 2262, renewing the sanctions regime and arms embargo, and recalling the primary responsibility of CAR's authorities to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

On 10 February the head of MINUSCA called for a renewed focus on prosecuting those responsible for serious human rights violations. On 8 April the UN Special Coordinator on sexual exploitation and abuse, Jan Holl Lute, visited CAR to initiate enhanced measures to halt abuse by MINUSCA peacekeepers.

On 18 April the UNSC issued a Press Statement condemning the killing of a MINUSCA peacekeeper and emphasizing that such attacks constitute war crimes. The UNSC reiterated support for MINUSCA in assisting the government to uphold its primary responsibility to protect its population.

NECESSARY ACTION: The newly-formed government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes and other violations of IHRL and IHL, including through cooperation with the ICC. Urgent financial and logistical resources are also needed to establish the Special Criminal Court for CAR. The UNSC should sanction individuals responsible for atrocity crimes or other serious abuses of human rights and violations of IHL.

UN and French forces must forcibly disarm groups that continue to threaten populations. MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable civilians lack sufficient protection, including in areas affected by the LRA in the southeast.

Last Updated: 15 May 2016