Despite a period of relative stability following the peaceful election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra in February 2016, populations in the Central African Republic (CAR) remain at risk of mass atrocity crimes as armed groups, who control an estimated 60 percent of the country's territory, 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, noting that "despite the positive momentum generated by the conclusion of the political transition, the country continues to confront profound challenges." Hostilities between armed groups escalated in the latter half of 2016, particularly in eastern prefectures.
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.
Tensions remain particularly high around Bambari, the capital of Ouaka prefecture, where former members of the Séléka rebel alliance, the Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) and the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), compete for control and influence. The UN's stabilization mission in CAR (MINUSCA) has condemned violence by the FPRC, who have reportedly targeted ethnic Fulani in their attacks. Armed Fulani self-defense groups have reportedly perpetrated reprisals, sometimes in collaboration with members of the UPC.
In addition to the violence around Bambari, several other armed groups have also carried out attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and MINUSCA troops, particularly in Ouham-Pendé, Mbomou and Haute-Mbomou prefectures.
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 463,000 refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 2.2 million people – half the population – remain in need of humanitarian assistance.
The peaceful political transition in early 2016 represented important progress, but governmental control remains limited outside the capital Bangui, where armed groups continue to fight each other and carry out attacks against villages.
The fragmentation and realignment of armed groups is a challenge for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). Hostilities between armed groups are largely driven by localized competition over economic resources and power, but sometimes also have ethnic undertones.
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.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed 9 resolutions since October 2013 that emphasize the government's responsibility to protect all populations, 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.
On 4 April the UNSC issued a Presidential Statement, condemning violence by armed groups – especially the FPRC and UPC – and urging them to commit to the DDR process. The statement also emphasized the importance of ending impunity and called for the swift establishment of the Special Criminal Court, which was approved by the government in June 2015.
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 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 assist the government to uphold its responsibility to protect, including through supporting structural reform of the justice and security sectors.
Last Updated: 14 April 2017