Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country that gained independence, peacefully, from France in 1960. Political instability followed a few years later, with military coups and harsh dictatorial rule characterising the better parts of the 1960s to late 1980s. The early 1990s saw a democratic opening, but the government failed to appease the interests of CAR's different ethnic groups.

CAR continues to experience violent conflict, with the war between two groups: the former rebel group Séléka (who are predominantly Muslim) and the primarily Christian Anti-Balaka militias continuing since 2005. Seleka militias were formed in 2012 in order to overthrow the then-president, succeeding in September 2013. Many members of the former armed forces joined the Anti-Balaka militia.

In 2014 Anti-Balaka overthrew the Séléka government, paving the way for an interim government. Catherine Samba-Panza was elected Interim President, but with a severely diminished (and divided) national army. In 2016 Faustin Archange Touadera was elected President. Fierce skirmishes and brutal attacks continue between both ex-Séléka and Fulani militias, on the one hand, and Anti-Balaka militias on the other, as well as within factions of ex-Séléka. The condlict primarily concerns national power and resources, but has de-escalated recently, with only 310 people dying in 2016, compared to more than 5,000 people in 2014. Tens of thousands of people have still been displaced, however.

The conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues, with increased LRA activity in the southeast of the country. The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, was placed on a CAR Sanctions Committee by the UNSC.

Peace attempts

Historically peace attempts have been difficult in CAR but one important compromise was reached in 2008 after almost two years of talks between government, rebels, civilians and opposition groups. Two years of relative calm followed, but was broken by a new rebel group (CPJP) emerging in 2009. This group signed peace accords in 2011 and no further fighting from them has been recorded.

In early 2013, peace talks between the Séléka and the government under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) resulted in the signing of agreements, which provided for transitional and power-sharing measures. But fighting soon resumed and in March, 2013, Seleka seized the capital, forcing President Bozizé to flee the country.

In 2014, the EU, the AU, and the UN supported the interim government of President Samba-Panza in her attempt to mediate between ex-Séléka and Anti-Balaka militias. In mid-March, the government unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a peace agreement with the Anti-Balaka militia. In April the EU approved the EU Military Operation in the Central African Republic (EUFOR RCA), a 1,000-strong peacekeeping mission for immediate deployment around the capital Bangui. Also, the 1,600-strong AU-led MISCA mission transferred its authority to MINUSCA, a 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission with an annual budget of $921m. The mission has accounted for 25 deaths, but had its mandate renewed in 2016, including an arms embargo, asset freeze, and travel ban on designated individuals. It has been dogged with accusations of sexual misconduct, including 29 allegations of sexual assault in 2016. France ended its military operation in the country in October 2016, but retained 350 French soldiers in order to support MINUSCA forces.

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