Violence in the Central African Republic
Escalation of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic between the Seleka rebels and "anti-balaka" militias, possibly resulting in mass atrocities
Since the outbreak of violence in 2013, around 6,000 people have been killed and a quarter of the population has been displaced, with more than four hundred thousand refugees and three hundred thousand internally displaced persons. Although mediation efforts supported by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) resulted in the signing of the Brazzaville Ceasefire Agreement in July 2014, parties on all sides of the conflict have violated the accord. Most recently, the transitional government held an inclusive national forum in May 2015 to discuss upcoming elections and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, as well as decentralization and judicial reform. These developments are a step in the right direction but prospects for a successful political transition remain grim: weak government perpetuates the collapse of law and order and violence continues.
Following decades of violence and instability since gaining independence, an insurgency in the Central African Republic (CAR) led by the Seleka (or “alliance”)—a coalition of armed, primarily Muslim groups—has resulted in the severe deterioration of the country’s security infrastructure and heightened ethnic tensions. Seleka fighters launched an offensive against the CAR government in December 2012, seizing the capital city of Bangui and staging a coup in March 2013. In response to brutality by Seleka forces, “anti-balaka” coalitions of Christian fighters formed to carry out reprisal violence against Seleka fighters, adding a religious element to the violence that had previously been absent.
In September 2013, anti-balaka forces began committing widespread revenge attacks against civilians, mostly Muslims, displacing tens of thousands of people to Seleka-controlled areas in the north. Seleka forces were disbanded by the government shortly after revenge attacks began, but many ex-Seleka members started committing counter-attacks, causing CAR to plunge into a chaotic state of violence and ensuing humanitarian crisis.
Reports by human rights groups and UN agencies suggest that crimes committed by both ex-Seleka forces and anti-balaka groups amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Additionally, anti-balaka groups have deliberately and systematically targeted Muslims. Intra-Seleka fighting and involvement by foreign fighers from Chad and Sudan have also escalated the fighting.
Due to the scale of the crisis and challenges facing international forces previously authorized by the Security Council, including an AU mission and a French force, the UN Security Council in April 2014 established a peacekeeping force. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) was established with a mandate that included a strength of ten thousand troops and a priority to protect civilians.
The United States has long supported economic growth, strengthening the rule of law, and political stability in CAR, and it remains concerned about the high level of violence and worsening humanitarian crisis. Further deterioration of the security environment will increase sectarian violence and continue to destabilize the region, posing challenges to ending the conflicts in neighboring South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
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