Away from the spotlight – Central African Republic


The conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) is happening away from the spotlights. It seems that the world has forgotten of civil war, which began in the year 2012.

Based on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 25% of the CAR’s population has been internally displaced by the conflict since December 2013. In 2014 the number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) was higher than 930.000 and in this year in January was still very high and counted 500.000 IDPs. With country population running away from the conflicts in neighboring countries, civil war has a regional impact. Based on UN (United Nations) reports more than 414.000 have fled to Cameroon, Chad, the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are alone way over their heads in different problems.

The country is currently divided along sectarian lines, with the government controlling the south of the country, which is dominated by Christians, and rebels holding the Muslim north. The Séléka group, who staged a coup against former president François Bozizé in March 2013, is one of the two main actors. With rebels sizing power widespread killings of civilians, destroying of homes and other crimes began. Séléka coalition is composed of rebels who are mainly from the Muslim minority. The second actor organized to fight against Séléka are mainly Christian Anti-balaka coalition. They began committing large-scale reprisal attacks against Muslim civilians in Bangui and western parts of the country. Thousands died and hundreds of thousands were displaced by the conflict. The deadly cycle of sectarian violence devastated western parts of the country in 2013 and 2014. Violence has further spread to central and eastern areas. Since the conflict began attacks against civilians are daily reported. Even though a ceasefire had been signed between the mentioned parties in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo in July 2014, it has been sadly largely ignored.

The CAR has been in acute crisis since early 2013. With the enrolment of almost all men and also childrenin different fighting groups and militias caused the collapse of farming sector and thus collapse of economic sector and furthermore, increase of radicalism among the population. In a country where agriculture represented more than half of GDP and where more than 60% of the population lived in outlying area’s civil war has taken a great toll. The country is confronted with poverty, since more than 60% of the population based on UNICEF reports lives below the poverty line and poverty will probably widen because of long lasting conflict. Corruption is also widespread and CAR ranked 150 based on the Corruption percentage index by the Fund for Peace, which means that corruption represents a bigger problem only in 25 other countries in the world. The country has faced weak governance, insurgencies, conflicts and uprising, ineffectiveness and limited state presence.

The CAR is a source, transit and destination for children and adult subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Furthermore, forced prostitution is common among all genders and ages. Increased violence and displacement makes CAR more vulnerable to the recruitment of child soldiers. Despite the UN presence in the country more than 10.000 children have been recruited by different armed groups within the country based on the United Nations child agency UNICEF. Some progress has been made on 5th of May with different CAR militias agreeing to free child soldiers, but there still remains a lot of work to be done including transition of children into normal family life.

Presence of various armed groups and insecurity enables humanitarian interventions and agriculture that could help bring the nation back on its feet. There was fighting before the crisis began in 2012, between the pastoralist and farming communities in rural areas. During the conflict cattle thefts and attacks have affected pastoralists the most, since they were involved in intercommunal revenge attacks and were targets of attacks by different armed groups. In CAR, as elsewhere in the sub-region, the cattle are an important economic capital and have long been both a source of wealth and a cause of violence. Military groups, including ex-Séléka and Anti-balaka, have become experts in cattle thefts and livestock dealers that were sold in different markets in and outside the country. Cattle thefts have become an important source of funding. Different militias have seized control over roads, territories and illegal trade. Some also collect taxes, steal goods, and are extorting civilians. Massive numbers of pastoralists have fled from the west of the country toward Cameroon and Chad. The Crisis Group report from last year shows that meat has become scarce and some regions and that CAR now depend on import of cattle. Cattle slaughtered per day have drastically fallen. That has led to disruption of the sector’s entire supply chain and has brought trade to a standstill.

United Nations multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) current authorization has put 12.870 total uniformed personnel, including 10.750 military personnel, 2.120 police and an appropriate significant civilian component on the ground. Mandate of MINUSCA mission with contribution of military personnel from 38 and police personnel from 18 different countries around the globe is the protection of civilians, support for the implementation of the transition process, delivery of humanitarian assistance, promotion of human rights, disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation. The UN were present in the country before MINUSCA peacekeeping operation with the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Central African Republic (BINUCA) and the African Union-led International support Mission in the CAR (MICSA) with different priorities and mandates from year 2010 forward. France has since 1960 intervened in the CAR seven times since the independence. In December 2013 France intervene with military and its operation Sangaris with 2000 men. Based on Global Security as of 2010, 90 percent of the uranium deposits in Bakouma were owned by Uramin, a private corporation in which Areva, the French nuclear giant, is a 100 percent shareholder. As we know France has significant economic interests in the country since 75% of France’s energy is derived from nuclear sources. Despite the UN and international presence, regardless of motive, violence continued and with it widespread human rights violations. Civilians could not be protected since there were sporadic attacks with a lot of fatalities. The root causes of the conflict have not been resolved and addressed.

Even with existing military, executive, legislative and judicial branches CAR is a country defined by its borders on the map not by effective state control over its whole territory. Massive natural wealth should provide high standard for more than 4 million inhabitants, but instead the country is among least developed nations. The crisis in CAR has exacerbated old conflicts in rural areas and created new ones. Everything in the CAR is on suspension, none of regular activities are happening and country is trapped into many fields of violence. To end the crisis in the country that has seen many conflicts, coups and uprising since its independence, rural guerrilla war needs to be taken into an account. Months of violence led to wrecked state institutions, leaving millions on the brink of starvation and threatened to suck in the wider region. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions, more than half of the entire population, needs humanitarian aid. Since fighting broke out between Séléka elements and Christian self-defence militias called Anti-balakas the state lost its ability to maintain order. Security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis and its regional implications in the CAR are rising concerns and wider public, media, international organization should not turn away from the suffering of civilians and population of the country.

Teja Palko
Teja Palko
Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.


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