Populations at Risk Current Crisis

Central African Republic

Mass atrocity crimes are being committed in the Central African Republic by "anti-balaka" militias, ex-Séléka rebels, other armed groups and mobs of civilians.
BACKGROUND: Violence against civilians is pervasive throughout the Central African Republic (CAR) despite the deployment of French forces, a UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA) and an EU military force (EUFOR-RCA).

The Muslim population is being systematically targeted by the predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias. Formed largely in response to abuses by the Séléka rebel alliance, the primarily Muslim armed group who overthrew former President François Bozizé on 24 March 2013, anti-balaka militias have conducted systematic attacks against Muslims and are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in CAR.

The UN estimates that 80 percent of the Muslim population in Bangui and western CAR has been forced to flee or has been killed since September 2013. The UN reports that at least 16,440 Muslim civilians in eight beseiged communities are at a very high risk of attack, including approximately 9,000 in the town of Boda and 4,300 in the PK-5 area of Bangui. A 5 August report of the UN Secretary-General highlighted that the anti-balaka systematically encircle these enclaves, subject them to attack and cut them off from food and medical supplies.

The security situation in Bangui remains volatile. Meanwhile a 1 December report of the UN Secretary-General notes that the interior of country is marked by continued, widespread insecurity and the perpetration of gross human rights violations against civilians by armed groups. Clashes between anti-balaka militias and factions affiliated with the former Séléka have intensified, despite the formal signing of a ceasefire on 23 July.

Inter-communal violence between Christians and Muslims in Zémio, Haut-Mbomou prefecture, between 17 and 21 November led to the deaths of three civilians and the displacement of over 3,000 people. The incidents were triggered by the killing of one community member on 5 November and led to retaliatory attacks in neighbouring villages.

On 21 November elements of the Union pour la paix en Centrafrique, a breakaway armed group affiliated with the ex-Séléka, reportedly killed seven civilians near the town of Bambari. At least 14 people were killed and dozens wounded on 5 December in Bambari during inter-communal clashes.

According the UN Panel of Experts on CAR, 3,003 civilians have been killed since December 2013. There are currently more than 430,000 IDPs in CAR, including at least 61,200 spread across 35 sites in Bangui, and over 423,750 refugees in neighboring countries. At least 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

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

ANALYSIS: CAR has suffered decades of poor governance, recurring instability and humanitarian crisis. Since March 2013 the state has effectively collapsed. National security forces cannot prevent various armed groups and civilian mobs from perpetrating attacks and, in some cases, have engaged in violence themselves.

French, EUFOR-RCA and MINUSCA troops are struggling to contain violence in Bangui. Ongoing fighting between the anti-balaka, factions affiliated with the ex-Séléka, and other armed groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, has increased the risks to civilians in the capital.

Clashes are ongoing in prefectures that split CAR between North and South and East and West. The country is now effectively partitioned, with anti-balaka militias controlling territory in western CAR and various factions affiliated with the ex-Séléka establishing control in the east. The conflict between these groups is deepening and deadly attacks on civilians continue to be conducted openly and without fear of sanction.

The 23 July ceasefire agreement faces numerous challenges. The ex-Séléka rebel alliance has fragmented into various groups and the anti-balaka are loosely affiliated and do not operate under central command. Religious and ethnic identities continue to be manipulated, with communities mobilized against one another.

Accelerating the political transition and preparing to hold elections without significant improvements in security, accountability and dialogue amongst communities will only increase the risk of further mass atrocity crimes.

CAR's interim government is unable to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and requires 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 four UNSC resolutions between October 2013 and April 2014 that emphasized the interim government's responsibility to protect the civilian population. [For response prior to July 2014, see GCR2P's Timeline of the International Response to the Situation in CAR.]

On 7 July the International Contact Group for CAR (ICG-CAR) outlined a process to end hostilities and promote national dialogue and reconciliation. A forum held in Brazzaville, Congo, between 21 and 23 July led to the aforementioned ceasefire agreement. The ICG-CAR met for the sixth time on 11 November.

MINUSCA assumed authority from the previous African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission, MISCA, on 15 September. The force is currently comprised of approximately 7,450 of its expected total of 11,800 personnel, including 5,800 "re-hatted" MISCA troops. MINUSCA and the Transitional Authorities signed a memorandum of understanding on 8 August providing for the creation of a Special Criminal Court to be composed of national and international judges that will investigate atrocities and bring those responsible to justice.

On 24 September the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC announced she would be opening an investigation and stated that the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, forced displacement, persecution, attacks against humanitarian missions and the use of child soldiers. The situation was referred to the ICC by CAR authorities on 30 May 2014.

On 7 November the EU Council of Ministers extended EUFOR-RCA's deployment until March 2015. The UNSC adopted Resolution 2181 on 21 October, mandating the extension. On 15 December the Council of the EU agreed to a concept for a mission to assist the Transitional Authorities in reforming the security sector following the end of the mandate of EUFOR-RCA.

On 9 December the UN Security Council held a briefing on the deployment of MINUSCA and the situation in CAR.

NECESSARY ACTION: The transitional government must publicly condemn all attacks on civilians, including against minority communities. It is essential that perpetrators responsible for mass atrocity crimes be brought to justice. Urgent financial and human resources are needed to establish the Special Criminal Court and ensure accountability.

French, EU and UN forces must disarm all groups who threaten civilians. Vulnerable civilians in IDP camps and communities at risk must be robustly protected and unhindered humanitarian access must be secured.

MINUSCA must ensure it reaches full operational capacity and deploys in adequate numbers to all areas outside Bangui where vulnerable civilian populations require protection.

Local efforts to ease tensions between communities should be supported by international mediators and should be part of a broader strategy of national reconciliation. There is an urgent need for regional and international interlocutors to support the transitional government's attempts to promote disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups.

Last Updated: 15 December 2014