In March 2013, the Séléka coalition seized power from President François Bozizé, sparking violent instability in CAR. The coup led to an outbreak of deadly clashes between self-defence groups and Séléka soldiers. Insecurity and inter-communal violence is commonplace and tensions remain high. However, there is now evidence of some political will to address the conflict.
Spiralling into violence
Séléka is a coalition of rebel groups that formed in 2012. In March 2013, Séléka overthrew President Bozizé. They accused President Bozizé of failing to abide by peace agreements he had signed with them in 2007 and 2011. Michel Djotodia then declared himself president, however human rights violations continued in the country. In January 2014, a transitional Government led by Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in.
Since 2013, various troops have been sent in to try and manage the situation. In July 2013, the African Union Peace and Security Council authorised the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA). MISCA later transferred authority to a new United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Central Africa (MINUSCA). As violence continued unabated, in December 2013, the additional deployment of the French Peacekeeping Forces, known as operational Sangaris, was authorised. A few months later, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) – a regional economic group – decided to send in extra 1500 troops to reinforce security in the capital Bangui. MINUSCA now has 10,000 military personnel, 1,820 civilian police officers, and 1,400 police personnel.
The transitional government and MINUSCA are still struggling to stop violent attacks by anti-Balaka militia and ex-Séléka forces in Bangui, the capital, and in the provinces. There is increased fragmentation of the country into zones of influence by various warlords: Séléka and anti-Balaka are fragmenting into baronies – according to tribal or other local power structures. These zones are increasingly fluid as each warlord carves out their zone of influence.
Internal conflict escalates
Internal conflict, the result of years of cyclical crises and neglect by the international community, has escalated. The vulnerability of the country to regional cross-border conflicts and the involvement of external fighters add to the complexity of the situation and reinforce the need for a regional solution to the conflict.
Decades of poor provision of security by the state and the centralisation of power in the hands of a few has fed inter-communal tensions along religious and tribal lines, which some political actors are now manipulating for their own ends.
The state’s fragility in the east and north-east, and the inability of CAR’s armed forces to protect the population and maintain order, have played into the hands of rebel groups. This has exacerbated local conflicts and left local communities increasingly vulnerable and powerless.
A number of factors have weakened communities’ capacities to respond to conflicts, promote peaceful cohabitation and enter into a constructive dialogue with the authorities. Such factors include tensions within and between communities, competition over resources (land, financial, political and administrative), the destruction of traditional ties and a lack of trust in the authorities.
Participation of local communities in resolving their conflicts has been limited due to the legacy of poor provision of security by the state and an over-centralisation of power in the hands of a few individuals. This in turn feeds inter-communal tensions along religious and tribal lines. In order to make any lasting impact, CAR Government, MINUSCA and international actors need to work alongside local and national actors towards a durable and inclusive peace.
The Bangui Forum was finally held between 7 and 11 May 2015. The Forum is part of a long-term national process of dialogue and reconciliation in CAR and brought together 600 participants from across the country, who worked in thematic commissions to complete a series of final recommendations. Following the Forum, President Catherine Samba-Panza announced a special committee to follow up on these recommendations, however, there are few details of this.