Central African Republic

29 February 2024
Risk Level: Imminent Risk

Populations in the Central African Republic are at risk of possible atrocity crimes due to ongoing violence by armed groups and government and allied forces.


During December 2020 a loose alliance of predatory armed groups, known as the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), launched a violent offensive against the government of the Central African Republic (CAR). For more than three years the CPC and other armed groups have launched attacks while perpetrating violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), including killing and abducting civilians, the forcible recruitment of children and attacks on civilian infrastructure, humanitarian workers and the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA). The Central African Armed Forces (FACA) – working closely with Russian security partners, including mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group – have responded with counteroffensives, forcing armed groups to withdraw from major cities. The CPC and other armed groups continue to launch intermittent attacks in outlying villages and remote areas.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that two CPC-affiliated armed groups, including the Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC), have perpetrated systematic and widespread conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, gang rape and sexual slavery. Some armed groups are increasingly using or laying explosive ordnance, particularly in the west of the country. The UN has documented evidence of abuses and violations by FACA and mercenaries that may amount to war crimes, including summary executions, arbitrary killings, torture, rape and forced disappearances.

During March 2023 the Azande Ani Kpi Gbe (AAKG), a predominantly ethnic Azande armed group, emerged in Haut-Mbomou prefecture and sporadically clashes with the UPC, a predominantly Fulani armed group. The group forcibly recruited Azande youth and has targeted Fulani and Muslim communities with threats and abductions for alleged collusion with the UPC. Ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Fulani and Muslims, have also been disproportionately targeted in abuses – including attacks, ill-treatment, illegal arrests and detentions – in operations by FACA troops and Russian mercenaries. OHCHR has previously implicated proxy forces – who were recruited, trained and armed by FACA and Russian mercenaries – in incidents targeting and punishing Muslim and Fulani communities that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The police have also arbitrarily arrested, illegally detained and tortured members of the Fulani community.

Government institutions have cracked down on human rights defenders, independent media and the opposition. MINUSCA has recorded increased cases of hate speech and incitement targeting ethnic and religious communities and migrant workers, particularly transhumance communities, as well as against dissenting voices. At times such discourse resulted in intimidation, threats and acts of violence.

Assistance to internally displaced populations has been hampered by attacks on humanitarians and insecurity. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least one security incident affected humanitarian actors every two days in 2023.

The protracted crisis in CAR has its origins in the overthrow of President François Bozizé during March 2013 by the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian anti-balaka militias and the collapse of state institutions. Anti-balaka and ex-Séléka forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity between 2013-2015. Although a 2019 peace deal formally ended the conflict, armed groups continued to engage in sporadic violence.

Trials are ongoing at the International Criminal Court for former anti-balaka leaders and a Séléka leader. On 7 September the Special Criminal Court (SCC) charged former armed group leader, Abdoulaye Hissène, with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 2017. On 16 September the SCC charged anti-balaka leader Edmond Patrick Abrou with crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged participation in attacks committed in December 2021.


On 15 January 2024 an improvised explosive device killed one peacekeeper and wounded five others in Ouham-Pendé prefecture. Following this attack, the UN Security Council condemned the increasing use of explosive ordnance, which have caused a growing number of civilian casualties and destroyed critical infrastructure, and expressed concern about transnational trafficking networks that fund and supply armed groups.

Ahead of the transhumance season, during January MINUSCA established temporary bases in high-risk areas of northern CAR to secure the area and help prevent potential violence. During February the CPC clashed with Fulani pastoralists, resulting in casualties.

There has been continued armed group activity and routine IHL violations and human rights abuses in rural and border areas of the country, as well as mining sites. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has raised concern about the disproportionate risk of violence, extrajudicial killings, displacement and forced disappearances for rural women. During December the 3R (Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation) armed group reportedly summarily executed at least 22 civilians during an attack on the northern village of Nzakoundou. During February the CAR government reported that 10,000 children continue to fight alongside armed groups. Between October and February MINUSCA documented a 30 percent increase in violations and abuses against children, including grave violations and conflict-related sexual violence, primarily committed by CPC-affiliated armed groups. The AAKG launched renewed attacks in Haut-Mbomou, abducting several Fulani and Muslim civilians and targeting nongovernmental organization workers.


The security situation remains precarious amid heightened inter-communal tensions and recurrent armed group activity along some of CAR’s borders. The growing presence of explosive ordnance primarily harms civilians and hampers humanitarian organizations and MINUSCA’s civilian protection efforts.

The targeting of ethnic and religious communities and hate speech heighten atrocity risks as various UN experts and officials have warned that this risks triggering further violence along communal, religious and ethnic lines.

CAR has a history of widespread impunity that has fueled cycles of armed conflict and atrocities. While there are several mechanisms mandated to deal with international crimes perpetrated in CAR, accountability remains limited with few alleged perpetrators having been arrested, prosecuted or tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2013.

The cross-border flow of foreign fighters, arms and natural resources is contributing to a thriving conflict-economy. Competition for control of profitable minerals has resulted in armed groups committing abuses against civilians. Wagner operatives, who have a record of alleged abuses in conflict zones around the world, have committed human rights abuses as they increase their control of gold-mining areas.


    • Ongoing security crisis caused by, among other factors, defection from a peace agreement, lack of commitment to a ceasefire and mobilization of armed groups at mineral-rich border areas.
    • Acts of violence against vulnerable populations, particularly minority groups, women and children.
    • Obstruction of MINUSCA’s freedom of movement, impeding civilian protection efforts and the ability to identify and clear explosive ordnance.
    • Repressive measures imposed by authorities to close civic space and suppress dissent, resulting in a climate of fear and incitement to violence and discrimination.
    • Cross-border transhumance marked by tensions and heightened risk of violence between herders and farmers, as well as between armed groups and herders.


All armed actors must adhere to their obligations under IHL and International Human Rights Law. It is imperative that all parties cooperate with MINUSCA, ensuring the Mission can effectively carry out its mandate. CAR authorities must guarantee the independence of institutions, respect freedom of peaceful assembly and association and counter incitement to violence.

Provincial and local authorities, in coordination with civil society, should implement community-based atrocity prevention and response strategies, including dialogue and mediation to address and mitigate the risks of inter-communal tensions.

All perpetrators of atrocity crimes in CAR should be held legally accountable, regardless of their rank, affiliation or nationality. The government should prioritize accountability by launching and operationalizing all criminal and other courts intending to address cases of human rights violations and abuses. The authorities must cooperate with the SCC to ensure that suspects subject to its arrest warrants are taken into custody, regardless of the political or military status of the individual. The international community should ensure that the SCC has sufficient resources to carry out its mandate.


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