Central African Republic 2017/2018
The government had minimal control outside the capital, Bangui. Armed groups continued to fight for territorial control, and targeted civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. Widespread impunity further fuelled instability and conflict. Increasing numbers sought refuge in neighbouring countries or were internally displaced, in dire conditions. At least 2.4 million people depended on humanitarian assistance and 1.4 million remained food insecure.
There was a resurgence of violence mainly in and around the Ouaka, Basse-Kotto and Haute-Kotto prefectures (districts). Ex-Seleka and Anti-balaka armed groups controlled much of the country.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) was renewed until 15 November 2018. Its forces were strengthened following criticism of its capacity to protect civilians and respond to attacks. In June, the UN agreed to reduce the MINUSCA budget by USD18.8 million, and the budgets of 14 peacekeeping missions.
US and Ugandan troops, deployed under the African Union-led Regional Task Force to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), withdrew from the country between April and May.
In May, the national assembly presented a peace roadmap, which included a national committee of victims and excluded amnesties for war crimes, to the government.
In June, the government and 13 of the 14 armed groups signed a peace agreement which included an immediate ceasefire, political representation for armed groups and the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also incorporated the potential for pardons.
In July, the AU produced the Roadmap for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic, which launched a joint mediation.
Abuses by armed groups and crimes under international law
Armed groups were responsible for killings, torture and other ill-treatment, sexual assaults, abductions, arrests, extortion and looting, recruitment and exploitation of children and attacks on humanitarian workers and premises; they also prevented access to humanitarian assistance.
The International NGO Safety Organisation reported that over 390 security incidents targeted relief agencies and at least 15 local humanitarian workers were killed.
Between 20 and 21 March, at least 20 people, including civilians, were killed in clashes between ex-Seleka and Anti-balaka in the towns of Bakouma and Nzako, Mbomou prefecture.
In April, 11 civilians were killed in fighting between Anti-balaka and the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) in loose alliance with herders along the Bangassou-Rafai road.
On 2 May, Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R) killed 12 people in Niem-Yelewa and occupied the town for 12 days.
Between 7 and 25 May, UPC’s attacks killed hundreds of civilians and displaced thousands in the southeast including in the towns of Alindao, Nzangba and Mobaye. At least 130 civilians died in Alindao; women were systematically raped.
Between 12 and 13 May, Anti-balaka attacked the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Tokoyo in Bangassou, Mbomou prefecture, and the MINUSCA base. The UN estimated that at least 72 people were killed, 76 injured and 4,400 displaced, while the national Red Cross estimated at least 115 deaths.
From 16 to 18 May, at least 17 civilians were killed in clashes between ex-Seleka and Anti-balaka in the town of Bria, and some 15,000 displaced.
On 6 June, at least 18 civilians were killed when Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic (FPRC) elements attacked Anti-balaka positions in Nzako.
From 20 to 23 June, over 80 civilians died during fights between Anti-balaka and FPRC in Bria.
Between 27 and 30 June, at least 22 people were killed when Anti-balaka attacked Muslim neighbourhoods in Zemio town, and the local population retaliated.
On 1 July, at least 10 people were killed in fighting between the Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC) and Anti-balaka in Kaga-Bandoro, Nana-Gribizi province.
Between 29 July and 1 August, clashes between ex-Seleka and Anti-balaka in the town of Batangafo resulted in at least 14 civilian deaths and over 24,000 people displaced.
In August, clashes between Anti-balaka and UPC in the town of Gambo, near Bangassou, resulted in at least 36 civilian deaths including six national Red Cross workers.
In September, clashes between rival FPRC factions left 10 people dead in Bria.
Hundreds of Muslims returned home in the southwest but continued to be persecuted; fear of attacks forced them to restrict their movements and, in some cases, hide their religion.
In the southeast, international NGOs reported 113 attacks by the LRA and at least 12 civilian casualties and 362 kidnappings.
On 10 October, at least 25 people were killed in a mosque when Anti-balaka attacked Kembe town, in the Basse-Kotto province. On 18 October, clashes between Anti-balaka and UPC fighters in Pombolo, in Mbomou province, led to at least 26 deaths.
In November, four people were killed when unidentified assailants threw a grenade at a concert in Bangui.
Violations by peacekeeping forces
Reports of sexual exploitation and abuses (“SEA”) by UN peacekeeping troops continued. In January, the UN Secretary-General announced a new task force to prevent and respond to SEA. However, the UN registered 21 SEA cases, including against six children, involving peacekeepers. In June, the Republic of the Congo withdrew nearly 650 troops in light of sexual abuse and misconduct allegations.
On 30 September, at least one Mauritanian peacekeeper allegedly drugged and raped a woman in the town of Bambari. MINUSCA rapidly deployed investigators and committed to pursuing the issue.
Several SEA complaints involving French forces, deployed under Operation Sangaris, were dismissed following investigations. In March, the Paris Prosecutor requested the dismissal of a rape case which allegedly occurred between 2013 and 2014 at an internally displaced people’s settlement in M’Poko in Bangui. At least 14 Operation Sangaris soldiers and five soldiers of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), AU troops, and peacekeepers, were allegedly involved. The Prosecutor’s decision was that the victims’ testimonies did not sufficiently establish the facts.
Refugees and internally displaced people
The number of people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries increased due to an escalation of violence in April and May. By the end of the year, at least 538,000 people had fled the country for neighbouring countries Chad, Cameroon, DRC and Republic of the Congo; while 601,000 were internally displaced, living in poor conditions in makeshift camps with inadequate access to food, water, health care and sanitation.
Many suspected perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations, including armed groups and security forces, were not investigated or tried. Impunity was exacerbated by the collapse of the national justice system and its slow reconstruction.
On 26 February, MINUSCA arrested six FPRC and MPC members. Central African authorities detained them from 1 March and opened investigations. Suspects had not been brought to trial by the end of the year.
Between November and December, eight Anti-balaka members were sentenced in four cases, in a court in the western town of Bouar, to up to 20 years’ imprisonment for crimes including criminal association, unlawful possession of homemade arms, murder and theft. Others were sentenced in their absence.
The Central African authorities failed to implement an asset freeze which was extended by the UN Security Council on 27 January until 31 January 2018 along with an arms embargo and travel ban. Several listed individuals continued to collect their state salaries.
Between April and December, the US imposed financial sanctions including against Abdoulaye Hissène, a leading FPRC member, and Maxime Mokom, an Anti-balaka leader. In June, Chad announced that it had frozen Abdoulaye Hissène’s assets and banned him from crossing the Chadian borders.
Progress was made in operationalizing the Special Criminal Court (SCC) which will try individuals suspected of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law committed since 2003. The SCC Special Prosecutor took office in May after which five national magistrates and two international magistrates were nominated, and a committee to select judicial police officers was created.
The ICC investigations on the “Central African Republic II situation” continued but no arrest warrants were issued. In March, the ICC increased Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s 18-year prison sentence to 19 years after he and his legal team were convicted of attempting to bribe witnesses in 2016.
On 20 July, the General Court of the European Union upheld the asset freeze against the Belgium-based diamond companies BADICA and KARDIAM, which had procured diamonds from the Central African Republic despite a ban.
Right to an adequate standard of living
The UN reported that nearly half the population (2.4 million) needed humanitarian assistance, and 1.4 million were food insecure.
The health system collapsed due to the conflict and the population depended almost entirely on humanitarian organizations for basic services. Escalating violence led humanitarian organizations to temporarily withdraw staff from cities and villages.
The UN said that about a third of the population had access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities.