Throughout much of its 50+ year history, the Central African Republic has experienced violence, rebellions, and coups (four of the country’s five presidents since independence were removed from power through non-constitutional means). Despite vast natural resources, CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world. Armed incursions by foreign militia and rebel groups, particularly on the borders with Sudan/Darfur, South Sudan, the DRC, and Chad, contribute to instability. The United Nations has had political and peace missions in CAR for more than 15 years.
In December 2012, violence escalated in the CAR. The Séléka rebel coalition (a loose alliance of three predominantly Muslim rebel groups) emerged, unhappy over the lack of implementation of previous peace agreements (both the 13 April 2007 peace agreement with the government and the 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement). Beginning on 10 December 2012, Séléka attacked and seized control of several towns in northern CAR, prompting Security Council attention and press statements on 19 and 27 December condemning the attacks. Intervention by Chad and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) led to negotiations with the Bozizé government in January 2013; a ceasefire agreement and the Libreville Agreements of 11 January 2013 initiating a three-year power-sharing arrangement in which a National Transition Council (NTC) would form a unity government (endorsed in UNSCR 2088, 24 January 2013).
The plan failed, however. Bozizé refused to engage in a peaceful transition process; ECCAS failed to monitor the agreement; Séléka maintained advantage on the ground; and fighting resumed. Rebels seized power in the country on 24 March 2013, causing President Francois Bozizé to flee; Séléka rebel leader Michel Djotodia became president. On 25 March, the AU suspended CAR and imposed sanctions (travel restrictions and an asset freeze) on seven Séléka leaders. The Kimberley Process suspended CAR from trading in diamonds in May 2013.
Throughout 2013, the situation deteriorated with increased instability, widespread human rights violations, and massive displacement of population. Notwithstanding ongoing diplomatic attempts and even some agreement (N’Djamena Declaration of 18 April 2013 recognizing the Djotodia government), his inability to govern led to a breakdown of law and order, lack of basic services (water, sanitation, security, education) and further splintering of the rebel coalition itself. Insecurity adversely affected humanitarian access, forcing relief organizations (many who were targets of attacks) to scale down or suspend their activities, while the need for humanitarian assistance grew to more than half of the 4.6 million population; 20% of the population fled, fueling the humanitarian and regional crisis and increasing the potential for mass atrocities.
Séléka’s rise also pushed the conflict in a sectarian direction, fueling tensions between Christians (80% of the population) and the minority Muslim population. Although President Djotodia dissolved the Séléka rebel coalition in September 2013, members of the group dispersed into the countryside and committed atrocities. Executions, rape, and looting by ex-Séléka fighters fomented religious tension and Christian (“anti-Balaka”) militias were formed to fight the Muslim Séléka.
On 10 October 2013, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 2121, reinforcing the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA) and expressing readiness to consider “appropriate measures” against those fueling violence. The Council also supported deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), reinforcing and strengthening the joint efforts of the AU and ECCAS.
The analysis of the Central African Republic (CAR) case is divided into the following episodes (also navigable via the numbers in the top bar):