Global Conflict Tracker
The Global Conflict Tracker is an interactive guide to ongoing conflicts around the world of concern to the United States with background information and resources. This project is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Conflict in the Central African Republic

Updated July 09, 2024
A man prays in a mosque near Kilometer 12 (PK12) where internally displaced Muslims are stranded due to ongoing sectarian violence in the capital of Bangui, Central African Republic on March 19, 2014.
Siegfried Modola/Reuters
A man stands near a vehicle and other belongings set on fire by its owners who did not want to leave them behind for looters as Muslim families prepare to be evacuated by road, with the held of an armed convoy escorted by African Union peacekeepers, near the PK12 neighborhood in Bangui, Central African Republic on April 27, 2014.
Siegfried Modola/Reuters
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) take a break on an armed African Union peacekeeping convoy escorting about one thousand Muslims from the capital of Bangui to the norther towns of Kabo and Sido in the Central African Republic on April 28, 2014.
Siegfried Modola/Reuters
Anti-balaka combatants patrol in the parish of Gambo, southeastern Central African Republic on August 16, 2017.
Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images
People sit on top of a white van as it drives through a town.
Travelers are forced to turn back on National Road 1 due to clashes between armed groups and the Central African Army supported by Russian private security elements in Bolali on December 22, 2020.
Alexis Huguet/AFP via Getty Images
A boy stands facing a military tank in a forested area.
Families displaced from the conflict watch as a convoy of Moroccan peacekeepers from the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) passes by on the outskirts of Bangassou on February 3, 2021.
Alexis Huguet/AFP via Getty Images
A guard watches over a large crowd of people.
A gendarme stands guard as supporters of the Central African Republic president demonstrate to demand a change of the constitution in order to allow the president to run for a third term, in Bangui on April 29, 2022.
Barbara Debout/AFP via Getty Images

Since gaining independence in 1960, CAR has experienced decades of violence and instability, including six coups. Despite repeated efforts to attain peace and disarmament, an insurgency led by Seleka forces—a coalition of armed, primarily Muslim groups—seized the capital of Bangui and ousted the government of François Bozizé in 2013. In response to brutality by Seleka forces, “anti-balaka” coalitions of Christian fighters formed to launch violent attacks on Seleka fighters and Muslim civilians, provoking a renewed conflict that has killed and displaced thousands. Despite seven attempts at peace agreements between the government and non-state armed groups since 2012, Seleka and anti-balaka militias have only increased their activity and influence across the country, terrorizing civilians and clashing over control of mineral resources and migration routes. Due to the scale of the crisis, the UN Security Council established a peacekeeping force in April 2014 that incorporated African Union and French forces that had previously deployed to CAR. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in CAR continues to worsen, with around 70 percent of the population living in extreme poverty and around 3.4 million people in need of assistance. Spillover from neighboring Sudan’s civil war has also exacerbated the conflict, with reports of air raids and the recruitment of CAR fighters by Sudanese forces contributing to ongoing violence and instability.


Since the 2003 coup carried out by François Bozizé, much of CAR, especially the northern areas, has been controlled by rebels. In 2004, the government launched a war against the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). Despite efforts to achieve peace and disarmament, instability and attacks persisted. As the war came to a close, an insurgency led by the Seleka (or “alliance” in Sango) launched an offensive against the CAR government in December 2012. Seleka quickly took the north and center of the country before seizing the capital city of Bangui and staging a coup in March 2013. Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader, became president and attempted to dissolve the Seleka forces, but not all of the fighters complied.

In response to brutality by Seleka forces, “anti-balaka” (meaning “invincible” in Sango) coalitions of Christian fighters formed to carry out reprisal violence against Seleka fighters, adding an element of religious animosity to the violence. In September 2013, anti-balaka forces began committing widespread revenge attacks against mostly Muslim civilians, displacing tens of thousands of people to Seleka-controlled northern areas. Despite having officially disbanded, many ex-Seleka members launched counterattacks, plunging CAR into a chaotic state of violence and a humanitarian crisis. Since the outbreak of renewed conflict in 2013, thousands of people have been killed and the number of refugees has reached 750,000, the majority of whom have fled to neighboring Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while an additional 500,000 have been internally displaced.

Despite optimism after the election of President Faustin Archange Touadera in the spring of 2016, the crisis only intensified. A de facto territorial partition led to a pause in Muslim-Christian fighting, but fighting between factions of the ex-Seleka grew. Though the government maintained control of Bangui, most armed groups boycotted President Touadera’s attempts to calm the region through disarmament, leaving the government powerless outside the capital. Lawlessness in the rest of the country allowed armed groups to thrive and fighting increased in the central, western, and eastern provinces. The conflict has also wreaked havoc on the economy, crippling the private sector and leaving nearly 75 percent of the country’s population in poverty.

In 2017, fighting intensified, forcing aid agencies to pull out and prompting MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission, to boost its troop numbers. A peace agreement signed in June 2017 between the government and thirteen of the fourteen main armed factions had little effect, and ex-Seleka and anti-balaka militias, along with hundreds of other localized groups, operate openly and control much of CAR’s territory.

In July 2018, MINUSCA and government security forces launched an operation to disarm a militia group in Bangui’s PK5 neighborhood, a predominantly Muslim enclave in the majority-Christian city. After rumors spread that the peacekeepers intended to disarm all Muslims, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by armed Christian groups, heavy clashes broke out, and violence spread outside of PK5 as both ex-Seleka and anti-balaka militias carried out reprisal attacks. Ex-Seleka leaders then met in northern CAR and threatened to attack the capital, prompting MINUSCA to enhance security around the city. From 2018 to 2020, sporadic clashes occurred between the government and increasingly fragmented armed groups, and militants continued targeting civilians, particularly at places of worship. In February 2019, the government and fourteen armed groups signed a peace agreement, but most of its tenets have not been implemented. Reports by human rights groups and UN agencies suggest that violence committed by both ex-Seleka forces and anti-balaka groups amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Due to the scale of the crisis, the UN Security Council established a peacekeeping force in April 2014 that incorporated African Union and French forces that had previously deployed to CAR. MINUSCA was established with a mandate to protect civilians and disarm militia groups, and it currently has more than eighteen thousand peacekeepers operating in CAR. In June 2024, the UN announced the deployment of additional MINUSCA troops to CAR’s war-torn southeast Haut Mbomou region to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. MINUSCA faces significant challenges in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians and dismantle armed groups, primarily due to a lack of infrastructure and reluctance to use military force. Numerous attacks have also been carried out against UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers; 176 peacekeepers have been killed since the start of the mission.

Recent Developments

In late 2020, former President François Bozizé returned to the Central African Republic but was disqualified from running in the national election on account of his international arrest warrant. In opposition to the elections, six armed groups, including the ex-Seleka and anti-balaka, banded together to form the Patriots for Change (CPC), a united coalition to resist the government. Nonetheless, elections went forward as planned on December 27, and government and rebel groups clashed throughout the country. As a result, many polling places could not open, but Touadera claimed victory with 53 percent of the vote. However, the opposition contested the result, and the CPC attacked the capital on January 13, 2021.

Though the rebels advanced quickly toward Bangui, government forces managed to repel them with support from MINUSCA. Assistance from Rwandan soldiers and Wagner Group mercenaries then turned the tide decisively in the government’s favor. Taking a more aggressive approach than the UN forces, these fighters have helped the government retake much of the western part of the country. Since 2021, government-aligned forces have made slow progress, but rebels remain in control of many northern and eastern areas. The Wagner Group reportedly maintains around one thousand mercenaries in the country supporting government forces in exchange for access to gold and diamond mines, though its future is uncertain following the group’s failed mutiny in Russia. The UN says Wagner intimidates locals and has committed human rights violations.

In early 2023, CPC rebels launched a new wave of attacks with improved weaponry against the government, raising fears of a return to intense fighting. Meanwhile, some progress has been made in implementing the 2019 peace deal. In June 2023, the UN announced that two armed groups and three militant factions from a long-held rebel area disbanded. However, the challenges of disarmament and reintegration remain.

Furthermore, a July 2023 referendum denounced as a farce by the opposition removed presidential term limits, clearing the way for President Touadera, who has been in power since 2016, to run as many times as he wants. For the first time in thirty-five years, presidential elections are scheduled to be held in CAR in October 2024. Opposition figures and civil society groups have called for the postponement of elections due to the deteriorating security situation and over accusations that Touadera’s United Hearts Movement has rigged the election in its favor. MINUSCA has said its aim is to provide support with election preparations and will encourage the broad and safe participation of voters, particularly women.

CAR still faces a humanitarian crisis. In addition to the over one million displaced by violence, an estimated 5.6 percent of the population died in 2022, a rate twice as high as any other country. In June 2023, 3.4 million people needed assistance, worsened by flooding that affected more than 100,000 people. Over five thousand cases of gender-based violence were reported in the first quarter of 2023, and the UN has expelled some peacekeepers over allegations of sexual violence. The conflict in Sudan has caused an influx of over 31,000 refugees to CAR since April 2023, the majority of whom live in remote areas outside of the government’s control. Finally, the UN says aid workers have regularly faced violence, complicating efforts to provide services.

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