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:
Despite a period of relative stability following the peaceful election of a new President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in February 2016, civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) remain at risk of mass atrocity crimes as armed groups continue to perpetrate attacks on civilians.

Hostilities between factions of the ex-Séléka, a predominantly Muslim rebel group, and anti-balaka militias have escalated throughout the country, particularly near Kaga-Bandoro, Bria, and Bambari. Between 15 September and 15 October more than 70 people were killed in Kaga-Bandoro and surrounding villages as a result of attacks by ex-Séléka members and clashes with anti-balaka militias. An additional 40 people were killed near Bambari during October.

Growing tensions in Bria have also resulted in violent conflict. At least 85 civilians were killed and 11,000 displaced between 21-25 November during clashes between supporters of the Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) and Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FRPC), many of whom were previously members of the Séléka. FRPC supporters reportedly targeted ethnic Fulani during house-to-house searches.

A new armed group, "Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation" (3R), has also emerged. Human Rights Watch documented 3R killing at least 50 civilians in Ouham-Pendé province between 21-27 November, reporting evidence of villages pillaged and burned. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which is active in eastern and southern prefectures, also increased its sporadic attacks during 2016, including abducting and killing civilians.

The escalating violence has resulted in an increasingly difficult operating environment for humanitarian workers, who have sometimes been the target of attacks. Several humanitarian agencies were forced to withdraw from Kaga-Bandoro during 2016. Troops from the UN Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) have also been ambushed by armed groups, with three peacekeepers killed during early January.

The crisis in CAR began after the 24 March 2013 overthrow of President François Bozizé by the Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias. MINUSCA and an European Union military assistance mission are presently deployed in the country.

An International Commission of Inquiry for CAR has found the anti-balaka and ex-Séléka armed groups responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Commission estimated that 80 percent of CAR's Muslim population had been driven out of the country during the 2013-2015 crisis and concluded that crimes committed by the anti-balaka constituted a "policy of ethnic cleansing" against CAR's Muslims.

There are currently more than 434,170 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR and over 466,000 refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 2.3 million people – half the population – remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

ANALYSIS:
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 civilians. Violence between nomadic pastoralists and settled agriculturalist communities in the transhumance corridor also continues.

The largely peaceful elections and political transition represent important progress, but the underlying conflict in CAR remains unresolved. Armed groups continue to exercise control over large parts of the country. The fragmentation of the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka is proving challenging for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programs.

National security forces have previously been implicated in serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) and remain unable to repel major attacks by various armed groups without the assistance of international forces.

MINUSCA continues to face critical capacity gaps that impede its ability to uphold its mandate to protect civilians throughout CAR. Allegations of sexual abuse of children by MINUSCA peacekeepers have undermined confidence in the UN. Attacks on MINUSCA by armed groups constitute war crimes.

The CAR government requires sustained international assistance to uphold its 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 by passing six UN Security Council (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 sanctions and the arms embargo. On 7 March the UNSC added Joseph Kony and the LRA to the sanctions list. On 26 July the UNSC passed Resolution 2303, renewing the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2017 and recalling the primary responsibility of CAR's authorities to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

On 17 November international donors pledged more than $2 billion to fund the CAR government's national plan for reconciliation and rebuilding.

On 25 November the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, raised concern about reports of ethnic targeting of Fulani and called upon the government to uphold its responsibility to protect.

NECESSARY ACTION:
The government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes and other violations and abuses of IHRL and IHL, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Urgent financial and logistical resources are needed to establish the hybrid Special Criminal Court for CAR.

MINUSCA must forcibly disarm groups that continue to threaten populations, particularly near Kaga-Bandoro and Bria. MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable civilians lack sufficient protection. MINUSCA must improve its capacity to anticipate and rapidly respond to emerging security threats.

Last Updated: 15 January 2017