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 rebel factions and other armed groups.
BACKGROUND:
Despite a period of relative stability following the peaceful election of 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. The UN Secretary-General's 1 February report on CAR noted that at least 287 civilians have been killed since October 2016, acknowledging that "despite the positive momentum generated by the conclusion of the political transition, the country continues to confront profound challenges." Hostilities between factions of the former Séléka rebel alliance escalated in the latter half of 2016, particularly in Ouaka and Haute-Kotto prefectures.

In Ouham-Pendé, the armed group "Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation" (3R) has repeatedly clashed with anti-balaka militias and has carried out attacks against civilians, as well as the UN's stabilization mission in CAR (MINUSCA) and humanitarian organizations. MINUSCA has repeatedly declared its intention to protect the civilian population from attacks by armed groups, including by establishing a "red line" around Bambari, defending it by force when necessary.

Recurring violence and frequent attacks by various armed groups make CAR one of the most dangerous operating environments for humanitarian organizations. There are currently over 402,000 internally displaced persons in CAR and over 475,000 refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 2.2 million people – half the population – remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

The current crisis in CAR has its origins in the aftermath of the overthrow of President François Bozizé on 24 March 2013 by the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias. According to the international Commission of Inquiry for CAR, both the Séléka and anti-balaka committed war crimes and crimes against humanity between 2013-2014.

ANALYSIS:
The peaceful political transition represents important progress, but governmental control remains limited outside the capital in Bangui. The fragmentation of armed groups is a challenge for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. Hostilities between factions of the former Séléka rebel alliance, who have in some instances allied themselves with anti-balaka militias, are largely driven by localized competition over economic resources and power.

National security forces are unable to repel major attacks and protect the population 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 the entire country.

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

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE:
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed 9 resolutions since October 2013 that emphasize the government's responsibility to protect the civilian population, including Resolution 2339 of 27 January 2017, which renewed sanctions and an arms embargo until 31 January 2018.

On 26 July 2016 the UNSC passed Resolution 2301, renewing the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2017. MINUSCA has been deployed in the country since 15 September 2014. On 16 July 2016, the European Union (EU) deployed a military training mission.

In a joint statement on 19 January 2017, the UN, EU, African Union, Economic Community of Central African States and International Organization of La Francophonie, expressed their concern about the security situation in CAR, particularly in Ouaka and Haute-Kotto prefectures, demanding that all armed groups immediately cease hostilities.

NECESSARY ACTION:
Notwithstanding its numerous reconstruction, reconciliation and security challenges, the government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court. Long-term financial and logistical resources are needed to establish the hybrid Special Criminal Court for CAR.

MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where civilians lack sufficient protection and improve its capacity to anticipate and respond to emerging security threats.

The international community should continue to support the government to help it uphold its Responsibility to Protect, including through supporting structural reform of the justice and security sectors.


Last Updated: 15 March 2017