Map of the Central African Republic (courtesy of Wiki Commons)
The Central African Republic (CAR) gained independence from France in 1960. Since 1965, the government has been challenged by five military coup attempts, and military rule was implemented until 1993. Despite the creation of a UN peacebuilding office for CAR in 2009, the country’s population remained under threat due to conflict between rebel groups Séléka and the Anti-balaka.
The Séléka overthrew the government in March 2013, arguing that the CAR President, François Bozizé, had not undertaken the reforms he had committed to during the 2013 Libreville Agreement. Michel Djotodia, leader of the Séléka, proclaimed himself President and suspended the Constitution. In light of the atrocities committed by the Séléka, this decision sparked much controversy. Self-defence militias known as anti-Balaka formed and clashes with the Séléka rapidly occurred leading large human rights abuses to be committed by both groups. These tensions intensified when the anti-Balaka groups were seen as targeting Muslims, while the Séléka was believed to persecute Christians.
Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, warned the Security Council in November 2013 that “urgent action is required now to stop the on-going serious and widespread violations of human rights that are being committed with impunity against the civilian population and the increase in sectarian attacks across the country” (2013). In January 2014, he went a step further by explaining that “the widespread, unchecked nature of attacks by ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka militia, as well as by armed civilians associated with them, against civilians on the basis of religion or ethnicity constitute crimes against humanity. If not halted, there is a risk of genocide in this country”. He then added “we need to uphold our responsibility to protect Central Africans from the risk of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity yesterday” (2014).
Following the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the French Opération Sangaris, the two rebel groups signed a ceasefire agreement in July 2014. Catherine Samba-Panza was elected as interim president by the National Transitional Council and held office from 2014 to 2016. Elections were held in early 2016, which saw Faustin-Archange Touadéra win 63% of the vote and take over as president. Rebel fighting however began again in late 2016.
The election of Faustin-Archange Touadéra on 27 March 2016 initially provided some stability and political security, as armed rebel groups waited to see the intentions of the new government. However, the end of 2016 saw violent conflict restart across the country, as the government was unable to successfully reconcile the differing agendas of the rebel groups (Crisis Group, 2017).
Progress has been made towards stabilising the capital (Bangui) since 2014, evident in the securing of the main supply route to the town and the reopening of shops, however members of the Muslim community still say they do not feel safe leaving their districts as tensions remain high and relations volatile (Crisis Group, 2017).
Throughout the rest of the country, there is little effective state control. The centre and east have seen guerrilla fighting and failed mediation and peace treaties between ex-Séléka factions FPRC (Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique) and UPC (l’Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique) since late 2016 (Human Rights Watch, 2017). The north and north-west is also a hotspot for conflict, mostly over land and cattle rustling (Crisis Group, 2017).
At the individual level
Despite being rich in natural resources (such as gold, diamonds and uranium), the country is 188th out of 188 on the Human Development Index (Human Development Report, 2016) and 2.5 million of the 4.6 million civilians are expected to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018 (UNICEF, 2018).
Conflict in CAR has displaced over 1.1 million of its 4.7 million population (UNHCR, 2017). As of 2017, 600,000 people have been internally displaced (MINUSCA, 2017), and approximately half of the population are dependent on humanitarian aid to survive (Medicins Sans Frontiers, 2016). Many women have also been subject to gender and sexual based violence as a weapon of war; Human Rights Watch have identified 300, but the actual number remains unclear and is most likely higher (Human Rights Watch, 2017). The lives of many children have also been severely disrupted, with 70% no longer attending school. Furthermore, of the estimated 1.7 million without access to safe drinking water, 800,000 are children (UNICEF, 2018). Up to 10,000 child soldiers have also been recruited into armed groups (Guardian, 2017).
At the state level
Although the current government in CAR was theoretically democratically elected, the election process was hindered by the first round of voting being unsuccessful and multiple delays in the second round (Guardian, 2015). A majority of 63% after two rounds of voting was achieved by Faustin-Archange Touadéra, however his government has been declining in popularity since they assumed office in 2016 as hopes of ending violence and increasing security were not met (Crisis Group). CAR is also struggling financially; the conflict has forced the closure of companies, which has led to economic stagnation and even deterioration. The country’s GDP dropped by 36% in 2013 (International Business Times, 2016). There is also still widespread corruption and tax evasion (Crisis Group), and the government is struggling to extend its control beyond Bangui (World Politics Review). Whilst this remains the case, armed militia groups are able to continue to operate and mass atrocities cannot be prevented.
At the regional level
The violence perpetrated by armed groups in CAR has driven 531,000 Central African refugees to flee into neighbouring countries, particularly Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo (UNHCR, 2017). Over half are now in Cameroon, which is struggling to cope with the influx; the UNHCR office in Cameroon say they have only received 18% of the financial aid they need (UNHCR, 2017[CM1]). Food is becoming increasingly scarce for refugees after rations were halved in October 2016 (Guardian, 2017).
At the global level
As the next section shows, the international community has been committed to putting an end to the conflict and violence but the situation has proven challenging and the international community has once again been accused of not being able to fulfil its responsibility to protect.
The UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA) still has over 12,000 troops on the ground, however they are struggling to be as effective in deterring the armed rebel groups as they are mostly concentrated in Bangui and do not have enough resources to expand further (Crisis Group, 2017). The operation has also been tarnished by accusations of rape against their peacekeepers (Amnesty International, 2017).
From a humanitarian point of view, only $6.3 million of the $51.1 million requested to meet humanitarian needs have been received (UNHCR, 2017). CAR is considered one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian actors on the ground, with 14 peacekeepers having been killed (UN, 2017) in some of the 200 targeted attacks on NGOs since January 2017 (Crisis Group, 2017).
What has the international community done about it?
The United Nations
Through Resolution 2127, which was passed in December 2013, the UN Security Council established a mandate for the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) to protect civilians and stabilise the country. It was replaced in September 2014 by the MINUSCA – Mission in the Central African Republic – which primary aims are to protect civilians as well as disarmament, political support and state restoration. The UN also authorised French forces to be deployed “to take all necessary measures to support MISCA in the discharge of its mandate” (The UN Security Council 2013). MINUSCA still has 12,870 uniformed personnel after more troops were deployed in October 2017 (UN, 2017), while France withdrew its troops in October 2016.
The European Union
In November 2016, the EU pledged $450 million for building peace, developing infrastructure and as humanitarian aid over the next five years (Human Rights Watch, 2016). It also established their first multi-donor trust fund in 2014; Bekou is a medium-term response, with the aim of organising aid to promote stabilisation and development in CAR.
In July 2016, training mission EUTM RCA was established with close links to MINUSCA to support and modernise the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA). It will expire on 20th September 2018 (EUTM RCA, 2016). This mission follows the 2007 effort EUFOR Chad/CAR, which aimed to support CAR’s security forces and infrastructure. 3700 troops were deployed, 2000 of which were French, and 600 were kept in reserve (Revolvy, 2009). In 2009, the UN took over the operation.
The African Union (AU)
In early 2017, the AU and CAR’s neighbouring countries merged their efforts and launched a collective initiative to mediate talks. The AU arranged peace talks with 13 CAR armed militia groups in Rome. A peace agreement was signed in June 2017 committing to the “immediate implementation… of a countrywide ceasefire” (DW, 2017). Despite this, peace did not last and conflict on the ground continued (Crisis Group, 2017). Furthermore, AU peacekeepers have been accused of murdering 12 citizens in Boali in 2014, which became increasingly credible after a mass grave was found in the town (Human Rights Watch, 2016).
The International Criminal Court (ICC)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigations into CAR in 2014. Investigations have been launched into the actions of the Séléka and Anti-balaka and are ongoing.
Former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo had forces active in CAR from 2002 to 2003, and was found guilty by the ICC of rape, murder and pillage on 21st March 2016 and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.
Key declarations by the European Union and EU member states
European Parliament. 2018. Human rights: Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Thailand. European Parliament. Accessed on 30 January 2018.
The European Parliament expressed deep concern about the growing instability within CAR. There is a danger that the growing violence and instability might tip the country into civil war. The European Parliament calls on the CAR authorities to restore the rule of law. Additionally, the European Parliament calls on the international diamond companies to trace the origins of their diamonds in order to avoid fuelling and funding the conflict.
European Parliament. 2018. Human rights: Indonesia, Central African Republic and Burundi. European Parliament. Accessed on 30 January 2018.
The European Parliament strongly condemns numerous violations of human rights such as killings, sexual violence, and aggression targeted at civilians and peacekeepers. They call upon the authorities in CAR to hold immediate and impartial investigations.
European Union External Action Service. 2017. European Union takes over chairmanship of Kimberley Process on conflict diamonds. European Union External Action. Accessed on 23 January 2018.
In order to provide sustainable and conflict-free trade of diamonds in CAR, the EU has taken control of the Kimberley Process. Launched in 2002 the Kimberley Process was designed to respond to the illegal and devastating trade of diamonds. Diamonds are a critical source of funding for the civil wars. Under the guidance of the EU, it is hoped that this illegal trade will be stemmed.
European Union Training Mission in the Central African Republic. 2017. Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic. EUTM-RCA. Accessed on 4 December 2017.
This source provides in-depth analysis of the European Union’s actions, aims, and objectives in reaching national reconciliation. The EU is providing military training and education to ex-members of armed groups in order to re-integrate them into a stable and functional society.
Europa. 2017. European Trust Fund for the Central African Republic Bêkou” / EU Trust Fund for the Central African Republic “Bêkou”. Accessed on 27 November 2017.
A comprehensive overview of the EU-funded interventions in the Central African Republic.
European Commission. 2017. Questions & Answers: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. European Commission. Accessed on 27 November 2017.
This factsheet by the European Commission outlines what action the EU is taking to prevent violence and sexual assault with CAR. Additionally, the factsheet outlines what the EU is doing to stop trafficking, violence, and how it provides protection to women during humanitarian crises.
European Union External Action Service. 2017. Opening Remarks by HR/VP Mogherini at the African Union-European Union Ministerial Meeting ahead of the 5th African Union-European Union Summit. Delegation of the European Union to Central African Republic. Accessed on November 2017.
Mogherini highlights the importance of the connection between the EU and the African Union. Stressing the importance of tackling key issues such as climate change, political and economic instability, and migration. Furthermore, Mogherini draws out the new ‘External Investment Plan’ in creating sustainable jobs.
European Commission. 2017. Bêkou Trust Fund – Introduction. International Cooperation and Development. Accessed on 23 November 2017.
Bêkou (meaning hope” in Sango) trust fund was established by the EU on 15 July 2014. Its aims are to promote stability and reconstruction. An estimated 4.6 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. The trust fund was specifically designed to aid the suffering population of CAR during and post-crisis
European External Action Service. 2016. Contribution of Civil Society and Non-State Actors to Recovery and Peacebuilding in the Central African Republic. Delegation of European Union to Central African Republic. Accessed on 27 November 2017.
During the international Brussels conference, civil society stakeholders stressed their commitments to supporting the peace building programme within CAR. They emphasized their obligations and desire to generate momentum for peace, reconciliation and recovery.
European Commission. 2016. The European Union’s Comprehensive Approach in the Central African Republic (2013-2016). European Commission. Accessed on 27 November 2017.
CAR is one of the main development partners of the EU. For over 30 years the EU has contributed €500,000,000 to assist the nation in escaping the endless cycle of violence, political instability, and insecurity. The EU is using all available means to achieve these aims, for example, the EU is the largest provider of humanitarian aid to CAR, and contributes common security and defence assistance, and provides the CAR’s multi-donor first trust fund with will provide significant financial aid in numerous sectors to aid the most vulnerable, Furthermore, the EU recognises the challenges faced by CAR in order to achieve national reconciliation and reconstruction, but together with the United Nations and the World Bank, the EU will assist CAR in achieving the goal.
European Union External Action. 2016. Projects in the Central African Republic. Delegation of the European Union to Central African Republic. Accessed 27 November 2017.
This source provides an overview of the EU’s external action service and their actions in supporting national recovery and reconciliation. The EU has significantly contributed towards electoral support. €20,000,000 has been donated to aid the electoral process in order to help CAR transition towards sustainable democratic system, and escape the cycle of violence. €5,000,000 in financial aid has been allocated to promote sustainable livelihoods for the citizens of CAR. The goal is to provide food for those who have been affected by the crisis. Additionally, the EU has allocated €7,600,000 to support peace and security forces, in particular, the gendarmerie, and a further €2,1000,000 for the protection of housing, land and property of displaced persons.
European Union. 2016. 2.06 Billion to Support the Central African Republic at Brussels Conference. European Union. Accessed on 27 November 2017.
During the Brussels conference, High Representative Federica Mogherini announced that the EU will provide €2.06 billion to support CAR. Mogherini emphasized that the EU will support CAR on the path towards sustainable growth, deep reforms and national reconciliation. Additionally, Mogherini pledged to aid the national government’s ambitious reform agenda to provide its population the peace, security and economic prosperity they deserve.
European Commission. 2018. Trust Fund – Bêkou – Contribution. Accessed on 30 November 2017.
This sources presents the first donations from each contributing member of the Bêkou Trust Fund. As of the 2014, the contributions totalled at €64 million. €41 million was overseen by the European Commission itself; €5 million from France; €5 million from Germany and €3 million from the Netherlands.
France Diplomatie. 2017. France and the Central African Republic. Accessed 30 November 2017.
This is a useful resource for a more general overview of the relations between CAR and France. France’s contribution to the Bêkou Trust Fund is at €116 million, and around €38 million in aid was committed in 2017. It also details Operation Sangaris, a French military operation that ran from 2013 to 2016. It is no longer in effect but France provides military personal to the EU Training Mission and still works with MINUSCA.
UN Security Council. 2017. The Situation in the Central African Republic. Accessed 29 January 2018.
In November of 2017, France voted in favour of the UN resolution 2387, that renewed the mandate of MINUSCA in CAR. France’s Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, François Delattre, declared French support for the new mandate’s improved dedication to addressing the humanitarian crisis (specifically concerning sexual violence in CAR), the ‘protection of civilians’, peacekeeping, and work to expand and deploy Central African military forces.
Le Drian, Jean-Yves. 2017. Central African Republic – United Nations – Renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate. Accessed 24 January 2018.
France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs made a statement at the UN Security Council in which he committed 7 drones, and the necessary military force this requires, to MINUSCA.
UK Department for International Development. 2017. CAR Humanitarian and Recovery Programme (CHURP). Accessed 30 November 2017.
This is a business summary from UK’s Department for International Development that establishes the UK’s CAR Humanitarian and Recover Programme (CHURP). It proposes £60 million of financial aid for CAR from 2016 to 2019, specifically for use in reconstruction in CAR, humanitarian needs, and to support CAR refugees. This new proposal will be mean that aid is given via international agencies, to target problems surrounding ‘health, protection and livelihoods’. It states that prior to the implementation of CHURP, the UK has provided £63 million since 2013.
Lord Ahmad. 2017. Lord Ahmad welcomes conclusions of the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Accessed 24 January 2018.
Lord Ahmed, the Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK, condemns violence and human rights abuses in CAR and warns that if humanitarian action is not taken by the international community conditions will reach crisis point.
UK Parliament. 2017. Central African Republic: Politics and Government: Written question – 8313. Accessed 29 January 2018.
Rory Stewart, who was at the time of this publication the UK’s Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded to a question in parliament addressing the political and humanitarian situation in CAR. Notably, he spoke of UK pressure on the ‘CAR government to implement the National Plan for Peacebuilding and Recovery’.
Adams, Kate et al. 2017. Principles for Global Action. Preventing and Addressing Stigma Associated With Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Accessed on 29 November 2017.
This a general report released by the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, that includes CAR in relation to sexual violence on page 19.
UK Department for International Development. 2017. Central African Republic (CAR) Humanitarian Funding to Central Africans, IDPs and Refugees 2014-2016. Accessed 27 November 2017.
This is a completion report from the UK’s Department for International Development for a programme of humanitarian aid from 2014 to 2016 provided to CAR by the UK. It states that the UK was able to provide 2,401,765 people in CAR and people in neighbouring countries with aid. £39,711,508.77 was spent on this project.
Germany Federal Foreign Office. 2017. Central African Republic. Accessed on 29 November 2017.
This sources presents the bilateral relations between Germany and CAR. This consists of work via the EU and the UN and German contributions to humanitarian aid.
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. 2017. Central African Republic (CAR) – Human Rights Priority Country. Accessed on 29 November 2017.
This corporate report was released by the government of the UK, in which it delineates the human rights situation in CAR. It states that the UK has donated ‘£58 million through NGOs and international organisations to assist CAR populations and CAR refugees since 2013’ in response to the situation.
France Ministère des Armées. 2016. Operation Sangaris. Accessed 28 November 2017.
The French Ministry of the Armed Forces provides a comprehensive overview of France’s commitment of troops to CAR to support the African Union mission, MISCA, as part of Operation Sangaris. The operation lasted from 2013 to 2016.
France Ministère de la Défense. 2016. Opération Sangaris. Accessed 24 January 2018.
This is a press kit for Opération Sangaris from the French Ministry of Defense , detailing its mandate, deployment, financing and work with the UN mission MINUSCA in CAR.
European Commission. 2016. The European Union’s comprehensive approach in the Central African Republic (2013-2016). Accessed 24 January 2018.
This is a fact sheet that was released in conjunction with the Brussel’s Conference for the Central African Republic, that was held in November 2016. It touches on ‘EU humanitarian assistance’; the Bêkou Trust Fund; ‘Common Security and Defence Policy’ and ‘EU crisis Response under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace’. Notably, contributions to the Bêkou Trust Fund have included ‘€5 million from France, €15 million from Germany, €3 million from the Netherlands, €1 million from Italy, and CHF 1 million from Switzerland’. The EU contributed €106 million, bringing the total to €136 million.
European Commission. 2014. Agreement Establishing the European Trust Fund for the Central African Republic, ‘The Bêkou Trust Fund’, and its Internal Rules. Accessed on 23 January 2018.
In 2014, the EU created the Bêkou Trust Fund to provide financial aid for CAR, as led by the European Commission. This is in part funded by the Netherlands, Germany, and France as the principle individual donors. Each member state signed this agreement and declared their cooperation. This agreement states the aims of the fund, notably to rebuild infrastructure after conflict and to encourage the international community to contribute via a collective pool of financial aid.
Key declarations by the United Nations
United Nations. 2017. Resolution 2387. United Nations, 15th November 2017. Accessed on 30th January.
Emphasizes that any attempt to resolve the CAR crisis should be CAR owned, including the political process, and should prioritize reconciliation of the CAR people.
United Nations. 2017. Report of the Secretary-General on the Central African Republic. 18 October 2017. Accessed on 31st January.
This was a report on MINUSCA.
United Nations. 2017. Statement from the President of the Security Council. 13th July 2017. Accessed on 30th January.
A statement expressing renewed concern at ongoing clashes between armed groups and the targeting of civilians.
United Nations. 2017. Report of the Secretary-General on the Central African Republic. 01 February 2017. Accessed on 31st January.
This was a report on the situation in the Central African Republic.
United Nations. 2017. Resolution 2339. United Nations. 27th January 2017. Accessed on 30th January.
Recognises that the situation in CAR is still fragile due to the continued presence of armed groups.
United Nations. 2017. Statement from the President of the Security Council. 4th April 2017. Accessed on 30th January.
This was a presidential statement condemning violence perpetrated by armed groups.
United Nations. 2016. Conclusions on children and armed conflict in the Central African Republic. 19th December 2016. Accessed on 31st January.
Conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in the Central African Republic.
United Nations. 2016. Statement from the President of the Security Council. 16th November 2016. Accessed on 30th January.
This was a presidential statement encouraging contributions at the international donors’ conference in Brussels on 17 November to support stabilisation and development in the CAR.
United Nations. 2016. Resolution 2264. United Nations. 9th February 2016. Accessed on 30th January.
Decides that MINUSCA will comprise up to 10,750 military personnel, including 480 Military Observers and Military Staff Officers, 2,080 police personnel, including 400 Individual Police Officers, and 108 corrections officers which includes an additional 68 corrections officers
United Nations. 2016. Resolution 2281. United Nations, 27th January 2016. Accessed on 30th January.
Welcomes the inauguration of the president Faustin-Archange Touadera. Also recognizes the future mandate of MINUSCA needs to be adapted to the new circumstances stemming from the end of the transition, in full consultation with the newly elected authorities.
United Nations. 2014. Resolution 2149. United Nations. 10th April 2014. Accessed on 30th January.
Reaffirms the previous resolutions and statements on the CAR.
United Nations. 2013. Resolution 2127. United Nations. 5th December 2013. Accessed on the 30th January.
Repeats the aims of previous revolutions, specifically 2121, also expressed deep concern at the new dynamic of violence in CAR, noting the risk of it degenerating into a countrywide religious and ethnic conflict. It specifically authorised French forces working under Operation Sangaris to support the African Union’s Mission Internationale de Soutien à la Centrafrique sous Conduite Africaine (MISCA) mission in CAR, as referred to in sections 49 and 50. In it, the UN allow French forces to move freely and ‘take all necessary measures’ to fulfil their mission. In doing this, the UN provided the newly launched Operation Sangaris with a mandate.
United Nations. 2013. Resolution 2121. United Nations. 10th October 2013. Accessed on 30th January.
Re affirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty and internal security of the CAR. Specifically condemns the widespread humanitarian crises and on-going human rights violations.
United Nations. 2011. Resolution 1998. United Nations. 12th July 2011. Accessed on 30th January.
Reiterating its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and, in this connection, its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children.
To learn more
International Crisis Group. 2017. Avoiding the Worst in Central African Republic. 28th September 2017. Accessed 31st January 2017.
ICG offers a mix of incentives and coercives measures to put an end to the violence and prevent ‘the worst’.
Amnesty International. 2017. Annual report 2016/2017. 2018. Accessed 25 January 2018. Pp.111-114
In Amnesty international’s report, they state that limited progress was made in utilising the Special Criminal Court, which would prosecute and try those who have committed human rights violations. In 2012 an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place in the CAR, resulted in Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, a military commander being convicted. Humanitarian organisations provided medicine and care to the 4.8 million that needed it, however it was not enough for the amount of people that were in need of care. In addition, this report suggests that although attempts have been made to combat the crisis in CAR, there is more funding needed to resolve the crisis.
Carayannis, T. and Lombard, L. 2015. Making sense of the Central African Republic. Routledge.
Carayannis and Lombard discuss how the turbulent history of the CAR have been overlooked. They look at the core subtleties of the governance in the CAR, and concentrate on the workings of political and economic life in the margin with open minds as to the type of its bonds with prevalent actors outside its borders.
This brief was put together by the ECR2P interns Colum Dillon, Ciara Miller, Sarah Rakotonirina, Milo Thrumble and Lucy Ward under the supervision of Dr Eglantine Staunton.
Last updated on 31st January 2018