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 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 country continues to be marked by pervasive insecurity. Attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are ongoing in western prefectures. On 14 May a group of unidentified armed men attacked a village near Bouca, killing at least 7 people and displacing over 800. On 18 May a Médecins Sans Frontières staff member was killed by armed men near Bossangoa. On 1 June 8 people were killed in fighting between armed groups in Balamon village. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which is active in eastern and southern prefectures, also escalated its sporadic attacks since January 2016, including abductions and the killing of civilians. Three people were killed in Bangui between 11 and 12 June following the killing of a young Muslim moto-taxi driver.

There are currently more than 420,000 internally displaced persons in CAR and over 460,000 refugees in neighboring countries. According to the UN, there are also approximately 36,000 Muslim civilians still trapped in seven besieged communities, which have been systematically encircled by the anti-balaka. An estimated 2.3 million people 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, particularly in the remote north and southeast. Factions of the former Séléka alliance have threated to re-unify and contest the new government if not granted positions and influence. 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 also exploited an insufficient national and international presence to expand its operations in the south and east.

National security forces have been implicated in serious violations and abuses of international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (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 by MINUSCA peacekeepers also erode 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 UN Security Council (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, and recalling the primary responsibility of CAR's authorities to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

On 26 April the UNSC mandated a technical rollover of MINUSCA's mandate until 31 July 2016 and called for a strategic review of the mission.

On 13 May French President French President Francois Hollande visited Bangui and stated that the French military Operation Sangaris would come to an end by December 2016.

On 19 May the Government established a National Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and all other forms of discrimination, in partnership with the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and the International Committee of the Great Lakes Region.

NECESSARY ACTION: The newly-formed government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes and other violations of IHL and violations or abuses of IHRL, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

Urgent financial and logistical resources are also needed to establish the hybrid Special Criminal Court for CAR. The UNSC should sanction individuals responsible for violations of IHL and violations or abuses of IHRL.

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 areas affected by the LRA in the southeast.

Last Updated: 15 June 2016