Populations at Risk Imminent 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: Violence against civilians continues throughout the Central African Republic (CAR) despite disarmament agreements reached during the May 2015 Bangui National Forum and the presence of a UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA), French military forces and an EU military assistance mission

The crisis in CAR began following 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. According to the International Commission of Inquiry (CAR-CoI), both armed groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Violence has increased in Bangui, the capital, since late September. At least 77 people were killed and over 400 wounded between 25 September and 2 October after the murder of a young Muslim man on 25 September lead to violence between armed groups and civilian mobs. On 26 October a delegation from the ex-Séléka was attacked in Bangui by anti-balaka fighters, sparking violence that has resulted in at least 16 people killed.

The situation in the interior of the country also continues to be marked by insecurity and ongoing human rights violations. On 10 November at least 10 people were killed, including a MINUSCA peacekeeper, and over 700 shelters were burned during an attack by presumed ex-Séléka rebels on a site for internally displaced persons in Batangafo. Attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are ongoing in western prefectures, including along the Main Supply Route, which links CAR to Cameroon.

The Muslim population of CAR has been systematically targeted by "anti-balaka" militias. According to the UN there are still approximately 30,000 Muslim civilians trapped in seven besieged communities. These enclaves have been systematically encircled by the anti-balaka, subjected to periodic attack, and cut off from regular food and medical supplies.

The CAR-CoI estimated that at least 80 percent of CAR's Muslim population had been driven out of the country by December 2014, and concluded that crimes committed by the anti-balaka constitute a "policy of ethnic cleansing" against CAR's Muslims.

There are currently more than 399,000 IDPs in CAR and over 442,000 refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 2.7 million people remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Only 31 percent of the humanitarian appeal for CAR has been funded for 2015, and OCHA has warned that essential activities risk being shut down. The transitional government, led by interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, is struggling to manage the ongoing crisis.

ANALYSIS: After March 2013 the state effectively collapsed. More than two years later, national security forces remain unable to prevent attacks by various armed groups 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 CAR. The scaling down of French military forces poses additional operational challenges for MINUSCA.

Hostilities between anti-balaka militias, factions of the Séléka, armed Muslim self-defense groups and other armed groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, continue to pose a threat to civilians.

Violence between nomadic pastoralists and settled agriculturalist communities in the transhumance corridor also continues. Some armed groups continue to illegally exploit natural resources to fund their activities.

Representatives of various armed groups and political parties have contested the outcome of the Bangui National Forum. The fragmentation of the Séléka and anti-balaka will prove challenging for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs. Political elites continue to manipulate inter-communal tensions for personal gain. Sporadic attacks on civilians are conducted without fear of sanction and despite the establishment of the Special Criminal Court (SCC) on 22 April.

Holding elections without significant improvements in security, accountability and political dialogue will only increase the risk of further mass atrocity crimes.

CAR's Transitional Authorities are unable to uphold their Responsibility to Protect and require 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 five UNSC resolutions between October 2013 and January 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.]

On 28 April the UNSC passed Resolution 2217, which renewed MINUSCA's mandate for one year and recalled the primary responsibility of the CAR authorities to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes.

The UNSC imposed sanctions on 20 August against three individuals and one entity for violating the sanctions regime established by Resolution 2127 of 5 December 2013. On 28 September the UNSC condemned the violence in Bangui and reiterated its support for MINUSCA to assist the Transitional Authorities in upholding their primary responsibility to protect.

On 1 October a high-level event was held at the UN to generate funds for priority tasks, including elections and accountability. Luxembourg, Japan, United States and United Kingdom were the only countries to make pledges.

On 20 October the UNSC issued a Presidential Statement that condemned recent violence in CAR and called for the first round of elections to be held before the end of 2015.

NECESSARY ACTION: UN and French forces must use all necessary means to protect civilians and forcibly disarm groups that threaten populations. MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable populations lack sufficient protection. The UN must facilitate the evacuation and relocation of all civilians who wish to leave besieged areas.

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

Elections should not be held before the end of 2015 unless significant improvements are made in accountability, political dialogue, reconciliation and protection of civilians.

Last Updated: 15 November 2015