The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a violent takeover of power in 2013. The aftermath saw armed groups conclude a multitude of peace agreements even as they continued to fight each other and launch attacks on the civilian population. The latest agreement, sponsored by the African Union and signed in February 2019 by the government and fourteen armed groups, raised hopes of peace. The violence has not stopped, however, and political tensions are again on the rise. Through on-the-ground reporting and advocacy, Crisis Group provides concrete advice on how to navigate both the critical electoral period in late 2020 and the long term, focusing on how to persuade armed groups to lay down their weapons.
Rwanda has become a major player in the Central African Republic, helping the government fight insurgents, supporting state reforms and investing in numerous businesses. This engagement has rewards but also comes with risks. Bangui and Kigali should act now to minimise the latter.
President Touadéra faced renewed pushback from opposition for scheduling constitutional referendum, while rebel violence continued countrywide.
Scheduling of constitutional referendum rekindled political tensions. Opposition and civil society groups early June condemned Touadéra’s late May move to schedule constitutional referendum for 30 July as manoeuvre to stay in power. Notably, opposition leader Alexandre Ferdinand N’Guendet, who briefly served as transitional president in 2014, 1 June reportedly threatened to march on capital Bangui, calling on army to rally behind him to overthrow Touadéra. Army generals 6 June rejected call, and public prosecutor 12 June launched investigation into N’Guendet’s actions. Opposition party Resistance and Transition Council 3 June urged citizens to rise up against Touadéra. UN human rights expert in CAR, Yao Agbetse, 16 June warned referendum could “result in further human rights violations” and urged authorities to prevent surge of hate speech and violence before, during and after vote. Meanwhile, Touadéra 9 June appointed Evariste Ngamana, ruling party spokesperson and parliament’s first VP, as head of referendum campaign, sidelining party’s executive secretary and Parliament Speaker Simplice Mathieu Sarandji, who has spoken out against constitutional reform.
Rebel violence continued across country. Govt forces and rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) 5 June clashed in Baoro town (Nana-Mambéré prefecture), leaving three civilians injured. CPC fighters 8 June ambushed govt forces near Kadjama village (Ouham prefecture), killing three and capturing one; 13 June attacked army and Russian paramilitary Wagner position in Makoundji Wali village (Ouham-Pendé prefecture), with unknown casualties. Govt forces and Wagner 11 June captured senior CPC official during operation in Bria town (Haute-Kotto prefecture), after CPC fighters surrounded Bria and spread rumours of major attack. Self-defence militia Azandé Ani Kpi Gbé 20 June clashed with Union for Peace in CAR (a member of CPC) rebels in Mboki town (Haut-Mbomou prefecture), leaving unknown number dead.
Chadian army continued military operations in CAR. Chadian military 3 June killed a dozen alleged CAR-based Chadian rebels near Ngolongosso locality (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture).
In March 2013, Seleka rebels triggered a civil war in the Central African Republic. A decade later, strong domestic and international tensions raise concerns the country could face another violent power transfer. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Enrica Picco analyses the state of play.
Disbanded in 2013, today the Central African army is present throughout the country. But structural problems could weaken it once again. To avoid a downward spiral, Bangui and its international partners should apply the principles laid out in the 2017 National Defence Plan.
Russia has become the Central African Republic’s preferred ally in its battle with insurgents. But the government’s use of Russian mercenaries as it goes on the offensive is causing domestic divisions and alienating other external partners. Concerns about rights abuses and misinformation campaigns are mounting.
The risk of an entrenched political and security crisis remains high in the Central African Republic following December’s contested elections. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU and France to press the government and opposition to halt heated rhetoric and nudge the many parties toward talks.
The Central African Republic is beset with fresh violence days before voting slated for 27 December. If the election is to go forward, and the country to avoid further turmoil, neighbouring heads of state will need to help rival politicians strike a deal.
In the Central African Republic, the smooth conduct of the December 2020 elections will be essential for the country's stability. The government and opposition should ease tensions, international partners should support credible elections and regional actors should encourage armed groups to abstain from violence during the electoral period.
A February 2019 agreement is the latest in a string of attempts to bring peace to the Central African Republic. Will it hold? Crisis Group expert Hans de Marie Heungoup goes to the country to find out, along with photographer Julie David de Lossy.
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