Title Image: The National Flag of the CAR.
Central African Republic has suffered internal conflict since an uprising in March 2013. The reports of widespread atrocities were well-covered at that time. Despite the media’s attention being diverted elsewhere, the atrocities have continued unchecked.
There are three principal factions involved:
Anti-Balaka Groups (meaning “machete proof”). These are predominantly Christian Groups.
Seleka – a coalition of Muslims which formed the 2013 uprising.
3R (The Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation Group), a Muslim group.
Map: Nations Online
This country of 4.7 million people descended into political chaos when Muslim-led ‘Seleka’ rebels seized power in the predominantly Christian nation, ousting President Bozizé who ultimately fled the country. Bozizé was accused of not implementing various social reforms which had been agreed to. The Seleka uprising became a truce but then descended into full-scale civil war when further compromises were not forthcoming.
By the end of 2013 the humanitarian situation was bleak, with more than 800,000 people displaced and almost half of the country’s population in need of aid.
Images: Africa Metro (1,2) and BBC (3)
Over the past four years the levels of atrocities have ebbed and flowed. There were fresh elections in February 2016, eliciting hope for some sort of a fresh start via the installation of a new President, former Prime Minister, Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
The hope was a false dawn. All that really came about was a strengthening of the 3R Group, a worthy enough name but a sinister hi-jacking of the cause appears to have taken place.
The group is reportedly led by General Sidiki Abass. Formed in late 2015, it claims to be protecting Muslim Puehl herders from the Anti-Balakas. According to HRW, the group is responsible for rape and mass looting of villages. There is no documented alliance between 3R and the Seleka rebels.
3R is reported to have displaced at least 30,000 people in the Ouham Pende region in the North West of the CAR since October 2016. There are a multitude of reports detailing the rape of women and children and hundreds of deaths.
Image: International Business Times
There are now 400,000 displaced people in the CAR. Over the past four years about one-quarter of CAR’s 4.7m population has been displaced.
There are numerous International Agencies trying to restore order:
The United Nations
Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)
The African Union (AU)
The Organization of La Francophonie (IOF)
The European Union (EU)
UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA)
There are demands from these agencies for a cessation of violence and threats of exclusion from on-going peace talks. Words, just words.
Richard Moncrieff and Lewis Mudge Images: ICG and HRW
Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), says that the 3R Group now has hundreds of well-armed fighters who control territory near Cameroon’s border.
“As with the rest of the crisis, things do not fit into neat categories. Based on our research, 3R’s claim to be protecting Muslims is a pretext. They seem to be a Cameroonian or Central African group whose real goal is to profit from the crisis,” Mudge said.
From Nairobi, Kenya, Richard Moncrieff, Central Africa Project Director of International Crisis Group (ICG), said that militias “tend to pick up on grievances of a community, many of which are quite legitimate. But this does not mean they [3R] in any way ‘represent’ that community”. In other words they have hi-jacked the cause as a veil.
The emergence of 3R comes at a time of rising tensions and insecurity in the towns of Kaga-Bandoro, Bria, and Bambari.
Moncrieff added that the hope of the elections of February 2016 had not resolved the underlying social issues and that there was a “total incapacity of the state to impose its will.”
Anti-Balaka, 3R and Seleka Groups have each been accused of widespread human rights abuses against civilians, including murder, sexual violence and mass displacement.
UN officers reportedly told HRW that they “are trying to conduct as many patrols as possible with the combat-ready men they have, but admit that both the 3R and Anti-Balaka are emboldened to circulate freely with their guns”.
Bangui, the capital, is seen as relatively secure with the majority of the UN mission stationed there. But rural areas remain mostly lawless and ruled by a litany of armed fighters, known to tax and harass the civilian population.
As recently as October, tensions in the town of Kaga Bandero in northern CAR led to the suspension of humanitarian work in the area.
Image: Nations Online
The suspension of some humanitarian activities because of security concerns will affect 120,000 food insecure people and 35,000 others living precariously in surrounding camps for internally displaced people.
More than 20,000 people were forced to flee to a UN base to seek safety and shelter after an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in the town was attacked.
The UN says that the relief efforts in CAR remain underfunded; only 36 percent of the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan was financed.
Central African Republic is one of the most endowed countries in Africa in terms of mineral resources. Mining contributes about 10% of the country’s GDP and Gold is the country’s second largest mineral resource behind diamonds.
The country’s other resources include: quartz, copper, iron ore, uranium, kyanite, lignite, graphite, ilmenite, manganese, monazite, rutile, salt, and tin.
It looks like the factions are fighting for something other than civil rights. Greed seems to be winning the battle for the Central African Republic.