CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 2021
Unlawful attacks, killings and other violations and abuses, including war crimes, continued in the framework of the armed conflict. Civilians were killed, people were summarily executed, humanitarian workers faced attacks and cases of sexual violence were documented. There was impunity for the most serious crimes.
Several armed groups led by former president François Bozizé forming the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) launched an offensive in January on the capital, Bangui, with the aim of preventing the presidential elections from going ahead. On 18 January, the Constitutional Court officially declared that President Touadéra had won a second term. Throughout the year, national forces and their allies – Rwandan soldiers and mercenaries – led a counter-offensive to retake territories controlled by armed groups. According to the OCHA, at the end of November there were 670,000 internally displaced people in the country, with limited access to water, food, healthcare and education.
Unlawful attacks and killings
Unlawful attacks, killings and other violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, some of which amount to war crimes, were committed by all parties to the conflict.
According to the UN, members of the CPC attacked and looted health centres in Mbomou prefecture in January. They also attacked or occupied at least 37 schools from January to June, preventing free access to education for thousands of children.
In March in Ouaka prefecture, elements of the Union pour la paix en Centrafrique (affiliated with the CPC) tortured and killed three traders for participating in the by-legislative election process. The victims’ bodies were found with their voter cards tied around their necks.
The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries reported that in February, following clashes in the town of Bambari, national forces and their allies targeted a mosque, killing 14 people including a woman and a child. A health facility was also targeted in contravention of international humanitarian law. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, 36 war-wounded people, including eight women and nine children aged 17 months to 17 years, were treated at the health centre in Bambari.
According to the OCHA, in June, national forces and their allies closed and burnt down a camp for internally displaced people in Bambari where some 8,500 people were living.
According to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), 228 civilians were killed between June and October as a result of the conflict.
The use of improvised explosive devices was documented by the UN: in the west of the country, in the first half of the year, at least 15 civilians – including a child – were killed, 24 were injured, and two peacekeepers were also killed.
Attacks against humanitarian workers
Attacks on humanitarian workers by armed groups or unidentified individuals continued as the security situation deteriorated. According to the OCHA, as of December, 396 incidents affecting humanitarian workers were recorded, compared to 424 in 2020. Thefts, robberies, looting, threats and attacks represented 65% of security incidents.
According to the UN Secretary-General’s report, three aid workers were killed and 23 others injured between June and October as a result of explosive devices.
In the context of the conflict, Central African armed forces and their allies carried out extrajudicial executions of people suspected of belonging to or supporting the CPC.
According to the UN, on 3 January, six people detained on suspicion of being members of the CPC, including a young boy, were executed in an army camp in Mbomou prefecture. In February in Ouaka prefecture, three men were executed by members of the national forces and their allies. Between March and June, the UN documented executions by national forces and their allies of at least 17 people, including civilians and a minor, in the prefectures of Bamingui-Bangoran, Ouham Pendé and Nana Gribizi.
Violence against women and girls
Cases of violence against women and girls were reported by the UN. Six girls aged between 14 and 16 were drugged and raped daily by members of the rebel group Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (known as 3R) at a base in the Nana Mambere area in January. They eventually managed to escape.
According to MINUSCA, between January and June, 131 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, including 115 rapes, 12 attempted rapes, one case of sexual slavery and three forced marriages, were documented. The attacks were mostly attributed to CPC members; 19 were attributed to members of the national forces and their allies. From July to October, MINUSCA received 118 reports of conflict-related sexual violence.
Right to truth, justice and reparation
Despite the requirement under Central African law that at least six criminal sessions be held per year, none were held in 2021. Hundreds of individuals were held in pretrial detention, often after legal time limits had expired.
Investigations by the Special Criminal Court (SCC), the UN-backed hybrid court mandated to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed in the country since 2003, were ongoing but no cases were sent to trial. In December, an appeal hearing before the special indictment chamber was made public. It concerned three men charged with crimes against humanity for killings that took place in 2019 in the Paoua sous-prefecture. The SCC announced that it had issued 25 arrest warrants. Only one of them was executed, leading to the arrest in November of Hassan Bouba Ali, the minister for livestock and animal health. He was released several days later by defence and security forces without any authorization from the judges.1
In May, the government set up a Commission of Inquiry following allegations by the UN of violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties since the beginning of the CPC offensive. In October the minister of justice presented the results of this investigation, in which the authorities acknowledged certain allegations against national forces and its allies, and the majority of allegations made against armed groups. The report was not made public and the next steps were not known.
Right to food and right to health
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of people in the country facing acute food insecurity increased from 1.9 million to 2.29 million during the first half of the year, exacerbated by the deterioration in security. According to UNICEF, in July at least 80,000 children under five were at risk of acute malnutrition, an increase of 29% from previous projections for 2021, and nationwide 40% of children under five were already chronically malnourished.
According to the WHO and several NGOs, health centres, especially outside the capital, lacked qualified medical personnel as well as essential medicines and equipment. Several health centres were looted of drugs and other goods during the offensive in January, aggravating an already dire situation. According to the WHO, despite a decline in measles infections in 2021, the unavailability of vaccines in certain areas was hindering the fight against the disease.
As of 31 December, a total of 514,271 vaccine doses against Covid-19 had been administered and 346,000 people were fully vaccinated (of an estimated population of 5 million). Priority for vaccination was given to health personnel and vulnerable people. Vaccination was extended to the administrative centres of prefectures from August.