Populations at Risk Imminent Risk

Central African Republic

Civilians in the Central African Republic face an imminent risk of mass atrocity crimes committed by "anti-balaka" militias, ex- Séléka rebels and other armed groups.
BACKGROUND: Sporadic violence against civilians continues throughout the Central African Republic (CAR) despite the deployment of French forces, a UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA) and an EU military assistance mission (EUMAM-RCA).

The Muslim population of CAR is being systematically targeted by predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias. Formed largely in response to abuses by the Séléka rebel alliance, the predominantly Muslim armed group who overthrew former President François Bozizé on 24 March 2013, anti-balaka militias have conducted widespread attacks against Muslim civilians over the past 18 months.

According to the UN there are still approximately 36,000 Muslim civilians trapped in seven besieged communities throughout the country. These enclaves have been systematically encircled, predominantly by the anti-balaka, subjected to attack and cut off from food and medical supplies.

A 19 December 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry into the situation in CAR stated that 99 percent of the Muslim population of Bangui has been forcibly displaced or killed. The report estimated at least 80 percent of CAR's total Muslim population has been driven out of the country. The Commission concluded that crimes committed by the anti-balaka constitute a "policy of ethnic cleansing" against CAR's Muslims.

Despite some improvement of the security situation in Bangui, sporadic violence continues in the capital. The situation in the interior of the country is marked by widespread insecurity and ongoing human rights violations. Clashes between anti-balaka and ex- Séléka, as well as armed pastoralists, are ongoing despite the formal signing of a ceasefire on 23 July and the recent National Forum in Bangui, held from 4 to 11 May, during which ten armed groups agreed to lay down their weapons.

On 15 May at least ten people were killed and many wounded in attacks by unidentified armed groups near Kaga Bandoro, leading to the displacement of 1,900 people and a further 2,500 residents taking refuge in a church.

There are currently more than 426,000 IDPs in CAR and over 460,000 refugees in neighboring countries. On 24 February UNHCR said the surge in violence in the interior since mid- December has led to the displacement of at least 50,000 people, including 19,000 that have fled into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). An estimated 2.7 million people remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The transitional government, led by interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, is struggling to respond to the ongoing crisis. The UN Secretary-General has warned that the permanent "de-facto partition" of the country remains a possibility.

ANALYSIS: Since March 2013 the state has effectively collapsed. National security forces remain unable to prevent various armed groups from perpetrating attacks without the assistance of international forces. Problems with uneven deployment and a lack of capacity continue to hinder MINUSCA's ability to protect civilians throughout CAR. The scaling down of Operation Sangaris poses additional operational challenges for MINUSCA.

International forces still struggle to contain sporadic violence in Bangui. Ongoing fighting between the anti-balaka, armed Muslim self-defense groups and other armed groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, continues to pose a risk to civilians.

Clashes are ongoing along a line of control that splits CAR between North and South and East and West. The country remains effectively partitioned, with anti-balaka controlling territory in western CAR and ex-Séléka factions establishing control in the east. Violence between nomadic pastoralists and settled agriculturalist communities is ongoing and armed groups continue to exploit natural resources to fund their activities. Attacks on civilians continue to be conducted openly and with little fear of sanction.

Representatives of various armed groups and political parties have already challenged the outcome of the May National Forum. The fragmentation of the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka will prove challenging for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration agreements. Preparing to hold elections before the end of 2015 without significant improvements in security, accountability and political dialogue will only increase the recurrence of mass atrocity crimes.

CAR's interim government is unable to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and requires ongoing and sustained international assistance.

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. [For response prior to March 2015, see GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation in CAR.]

MINUSCA and the interim government signed a memorandum of understanding on 8 August to establish a Special Criminal Court (SCC) to investigate atrocities and bring perpetrators to justice. On 22 April the National Transition Council of CAR adopted a law to establish the SCC, which will be responsible for investigating crimes committed since 2003.

On 15 March the EU ended the mandate of its peacekeeping force and withdrew from Bangui. A smaller EU-led Military Advisory Mission, or EUMAM-RCA, became operational on 16 March and is assisting with security sector reform.

The UNSC passed Resolution 2212 on 26 March, authorizing an increase of 1,030 personnel for MINUSCA. On 28 April the UNSC passed Resolution 2217 which renewed the mandate of MINUSCA for a period of one year and recalled the primary responsibility of the CAR authorities to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

On 26 May the Economic Community of Central African States endorsed an extension of the transitional government.

NECESSARY ACTION: French and UN forces must forcibly disarm all armed groups that threaten civilians. MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable populations lack sufficient protection.

Urgent financial and human resources are needed to establish the SCC and ensure accountability for mass atrocity crimes. MINUSCA should prioritize the arrest of individuals responsible for mass atrocity crimes and other serious human rights violations. MINUSCA must publicly report on the situation of human rights protection in CAR.

The UNSC should immediately authorize targeted sanctions against any additional individuals and entities responsible for violating IHL and international human rights law.

Last Updated: 15 June 2015