The Situation in the Central African Republic
In 2012, the Central African Republic (CAR) entered a state of civil war with the rise of the Seleka, a group of rebels who claim that the CAR government violated the terms of the 2007 peace agreement. The Seleka marched for the capital, Bangui, until a peace agreement was reached between the Seleka and the government in January 2013. Ten days later, hostilities broke out again, and the agreement was broken. The Seleka took the capital in March, suspending the constitution, dissolving the national assembly, and appointing new heads of government. President Bozizé fled the CAR and was later indicted for crimes against humanity and inciting genocide. In April 2013, a transitional council was formed to lead the country towards a presidential election. The Seleka were formally disbanded and another group, the Antibalaka, began to rise to fight local crime. Violence increased in December when the Antibalaka, consisting primarily of Christians and animists, coordinated an attack on Bangui’s Muslim population. In the wake of this attack, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) authorized an increase in the number of peacekeepers deployed to the country. The African Union-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic facilitated the increase from 2,000 to 6,000 peacekeepers with the support of a French-led mission.
In January 2014, ex-Seleka government officials resigned and an interim election saw Catherine Samba-Panza elected to the Office of Interim President. The fighting continued and the country saw an additional 3,000 peacekeepers deployed in February. Months later, the UNSC authorized the deployment of 10,000 peacekeepers in September under the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) to fill the gap left by the departure of 5,000 African Union troops. In 2014, several attempts by the international community to broker a ceasefire between ex-Seleka and Antibalaka forces failed. MINUSCA peacekeepers established boundaries between the ex-Seleka and Antibalaka, reducing the fighting to skirmishes. Official elections were successfully held in February 2014, and as a result of an apparent de-escalation of the conflict, the French peacekeeping mission withdrew its troops the following October. Since the 2016 elections, the government of the CAR has had little control outside of the capital, with seven of the ten provinces either held or contested by armed groups including the Antibalaka and ex-Seleka. The 12,300 peacekeepers of MINUSCA now struggle to protect the nation’s citizens, as the ex-Seleka and Antibalaka fight for natural resources. Over 50,000 people fled the country in 2016 as new rebel groups have risen to power. This mass exodus has caused an uptick in refugee outflows from the CAR.
At least 820 people have been killed in fighting this year, as of the end of August. Peacekeepers have been endangered, as Moroccan peacekeepers in particular have been marked as a legitimate target by members of the Antibalaka. On August 22, Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, stated that he saw “the early warnings of genocide” and an escalation in violence during his visit to the CAR in July 2017. A ceasefire was signed in June by the CAR government and 14 rebel groups; however, fighting broke out again only days afterward. The many rebel groups, divided on the grounds of religion and resources, and the limited influence of the recognized government of the CAR, both present a difficult challenge to efforts toward stabilizing the nation and preventing further bloodshed.