On 6 February the national government and 14 armed groups, including the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) and Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC), signed a peace deal to bring an end to years of armed violence in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Despite the armed groups' expressed commitment to the peace process, the security situation remains fragile and tensions between armed groups leave populations at ongoing risk of attack. Most recently, on 9 April the Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricaine, one of the signatories of the peace deal, engaged in deadly clashes with UN Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) peacekeepers in the western part of the country. The dangerous operating environment also threatens the provision of life-saving humanitarian aid for an estimated 2.9 million people.
Endemic violence in CAR has been fueled by shifting alliances between predatory armed groups, including factions of the ex-Séléka rebel alliance, such as the FPRC, UPC and MPC, and anti-balaka militias. These groups have intentionally targeted civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers, committed sexual violence, and perpetrated attacks on internally displaced persons camps, medical facilities and places of worship.
The February agreement, which was negotiated under the AU-led African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, highlights the need to address the root causes of the conflict. It also contains provisions on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former fighters and the establishment of a Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission. In keeping with the terms of the agreement, on 22 March the government announced a new cabinet, which will include representatives from all 14 signatory armed groups.
The crisis in CAR has its origins in the overthrow of President François Bozizé on 24 March 2013 by the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominately Christian anti-balaka militias and the collapse of state institutions. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported that both anti-balaka and ex-Séléka forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity between 2013-2015. A hybrid judicial mechanism – the Special Criminal Court (SCC) for CAR – was created during 2015 and opened its first session on 22 October 2018
An estimated 1.2 million Central Africans - more than a quarter of the country's population - have fled their homes since 2013.
Governmental control remains extremely limited outside the capital, Bangui. According to the UN, an estimated 70 percent of the country is still in the hands of armed groups competing for territory, power and resources. Illegal trafficking allows for arms proliferation and armed groups benefit from revenues generated through the control of roads and natural resource extraction sites. Civilians remain the primary targets of ongoing violence.
In many parts of the country MINUSCA remains the only force capable of maintaining security, but it continues to face critical capacity gaps that impede its ability to consistently uphold its civilian protection mandate.
While the February agreement was a positive step towards peace, the promotion of leaders of armed groups responsible for past atrocity crimes into senior governmental roles potentially undermines the credibility of the justice process.
The CAR government requires ongoing international assistance to uphold its Responsibility to Protect.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed 12 resolutions since October 2013 that emphasize the government's responsibility to protect all populations in CAR, including Resolution 2448 of December 2018, which renewed MINUSCA's mandate until 15 November 2019. On 31 January 2019 the UNSC extended the sanctions regime that has been in place since 2013, including the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes on those who incite ethnic or religious violence. On 9 April the UNSC announced it would establish benchmark criteria for a possible suspension of the existing arms embargo.
During May 2014 the government referred the situation in CAR to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by both Séléka and anti-balaka forces. On 17 November 2018 Alfred Yekatom, former commander of an anti-balaka group and a Member of Parliament, was transferred to the ICC and will face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 23 January French authorities transferred Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, an anti-balaka leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, to the ICC.
In addition to focusing on emerging threats against the civilian population, MINUSCA must strengthen its preventive capacity by bolstering local disarmament and reintegration efforts.
Notwithstanding its numerous reconstruction, reconciliation and security challenges, the government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes and continue its cooperation with the ICC. National authorities should also ensure the SCC can fulfill its mandate.
The UNSC and African Union should closely monitor implementation of the peace agreement and impose targeted sanctions on any individuals who breach its key provisions. Criteria to suspend the existing arms embargo must focus on the successful reintegration of former fighters and on strategies to counter the illicit trafficking of weapons by armed groups.
Last Updated: 15 May 2019
The five most recent issues of R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert are available in the side-bar. To see previous assessments of this country, please see R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert on our Publications page. Central African Republic has been featured in the R2P Monitor since July 2013.