Despite a period of relative stability following the peaceful election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra in February 2016, civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) remain at risk of mass atrocity crimes as armed groups continue to perpetrate attacks on civilians.
Hostilities between armed groups escalated in the latter half of 2016, particularly in Ouaka and Haute-Kotto prefectures in the center and east of the country, and in Ouham-Pendé prefecture in the north-west. In Ouaka and Haute-Kotto, ongoing fighting between rival ex-Séléka factions, the Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FRPC) and the Union for Peace in CAR (UPC), poses a direct threat to civilians.
In Bria, the capital of Haute-Kotto, at least 85 civilians were killed and 11,000 displaced between 21-25 November due to clashes between the UPC and FRPC. FRPC supporters reportedly targeted ethnic Fulani during house-to-house searches. Fighting near Bambari, the capital of Ouaka, resulted in the death of 40 people in October 2016. In February 2017, renewed clashes between the UPC and FRPC throughout Ouaka and Haute-Kotto resulted in thousands of displaced civilians, according to the Special Representatives of the UN Secretary-General for Central Africa and for CAR.
A new armed group, "Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation" (3R), emerged in 2016. Between 21-27 November, 3R killed at least 50 civilians in Ouham-Pendé. On 2 February 2017, 3R clashed with the anti-balaka and carried out attacks in the Bocaranga sub-prefecture against the UN's stabilization mission in CAR (MINUNSCA), humanitarian organizations and civilians. According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the violence resulted in 9,000 newly displaced persons.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) remains active in eastern and southern prefectures, where it carried out attacks against civilians during 2016.
The crisis in CAR began after the 24 March 2013 overthrow of President François Bozizé by the Séléka rebel alliance, a predominantly Muslim rebel group. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian and animist "anti-balaka" militias in the latter half of 2013. The International Commission of Inquiry for CAR estimated that 80 percent of CAR's Muslim population was driven out of the country during the 2013-2015 crisis owing to a "policy of ethnic cleansing" against CAR's Muslims by the anti-balaka. Both the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Commission of Inquiry.
The renewed violence has resulted in an increasingly difficult operating environment for humanitarian workers, who have sometimes been the target of attacks. MINUSCA has also been attacked by armed groups, resulting in three peacekeepers killed during early January 2017. There are currently more than 411,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR and over 474,000 refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 2.2 million people – half the population – remain in need of humanitarian assistance.
Hostilities between anti-balaka militias, ex-Séléka rebel factions and armed Muslim self-defense groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, continue to pose a threat to civilians. Violence between nomadic pastoralists, mainly ethnic Fulani, and settled agriculturalist communities in the transhumance corridor also continues.
The largely peaceful elections and political transition represent important progress, but armed groups continue to exercise control over large parts of the country. The fragmentation of the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka is proving challenging for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs.
National security forces have previously been implicated in serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) and remain unable to repel major 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. Allegations of sexual abuse of children during 2014-2016 by MINUSCA peacekeepers have undermined confidence in the UN.
The CAR government requires sustained international assistance to uphold its Responsibility to Protect.
MINUSCA has been in the country since 15 September 2014 while a European Union (EU) military training mission (EUTM RCA) has been deployed since 16 July 2016.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed 9 resolutions since October 2013 that emphasize the government's responsibility to protect the civilian population, including Resolution 2339 of 27 January 2017, which renewed sanctions and the arms embargo until 31 January 2018. On 26 July 2016 the UNSC passed Resolution 2301, renewing the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2017.
Between 25 January and 3 February, the UN independent expert on the human rights situation in CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, travelled to CAR. She will provide an oral update during the 34th Human Rights Council session in March.
The government should prioritize accountability for mass atrocity crimes and other violations and abuses of IHRL and IHL, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Urgent financial and logistical resources are needed to establish the hybrid Special Criminal Court for CAR.
All of MINUSCA's contingents must forcibly disarm groups that continue to threaten populations and ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable civilians lack sufficient protection. MINUSCA must also improve its capacity to anticipate and rapidly respond to emerging security threats.
The international community should continue to support the government to help it to uphold its responsibility to protect through implementing reforms in the justice and security sectors.
Last Updated: 15 February 2017