Populations at 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: 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 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.
An International Commission of Inquiry for CAR has found the anti-balaka and ex-Séléka armed groups, as well as their supporters, responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Commission 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.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned on 4 July of a possible re-escalation of violence in the coming months as the security situation in CAR has deteriorated. At least nine people, including three civilians, were killed on 20 June following clashes between UN peacekeepers, CAR police and an armed group in Bangui. Two people were also killed in a grenade attack on 4 July.
Hostilities between factions of the ex-Séléka have also escalated in the center of the country. Fighting resulted in at least 15 people killed in Bambari on 4 July and at least 16 killed on 19 and 20 June near Kaga Bandoro. At least three people were killed in an armed attack in Ngaboko, near Bambari, on 24 July. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which is active in eastern and southern prefectures, has also increased its sporadic attacks since January 2016, including abductions and the killing of civilians.
There are currently more than 391,000 IDPs in CAR and over 467,000 refugees in neighboring countries. According to the UN, approximately 36,000 Muslim civilians have been enclaved in seven besieged communities since 2014. An estimated 2.3 million people – half the population – remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
ANALYSIS: 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.
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 populations. Violence between nomadic pastoralists and settled agriculturalist communities in the transhumance corridor also continues. The LRA has exploited the security vacuum to expand its operations in the remote south and east.
National security forces have previously been implicated in serious violations and abuses of IHRL and IHL and remain unable to repel attacks by various armed groups without the assistance of international forces.
MINUSCA also 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. The scaling down of French military forces presents additional operational challenges for MINUSCA.
The new 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 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. On 7 March the UNSC added Joseph Kony and the LRA to the CAR sanctions list.
On 13 May President Francois Hollande visited Bangui and stated that the French military Operation Sangaris would come to an end by December 2016.
On 4 July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated there is an urgent need to disarm armed groups in CAR, which "retain the potential to reignite the conflict."
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 in particular from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
NECESSARY ACTION: The newly-formed government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes and other violations and abuses of IHRL and IHL, including through cooperation with the ICC. Urgent financial and logistical resources are also needed to establish the hybrid Special Criminal Court for CAR.
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 remote areas affected by the LRA.
Last Updated: 15 August 2016