Central African Republic conflict (2012–present)

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Central African Republic conflict (2012–present)
2012 Battles in the C.A.R.
Map of battles in the Central African Republic
Date 10 December 2012 (2012-12-10) – present
(1 year, 9 months, 1 week and 3 days)
Location  Central African Republic
Result Peace process:
  • Ceasefire agreement in line with continuing fighting
  • Séléka rebel coalition takes power
  • President François Bozizé flees the country[1]
  • Fighting continues between new government and Bozizé supporters
  • Séléka members continue to attack Christian civilians
  • President Michel Djotodia resigns and is replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza
  • French intervention in late 2013
  • Government declares war on militia groups attacking Muslims, 12 February 2014
  • Exodus of Muslim civilians
Belligerents
Central African Republic Séléka (Muslim militias):  Central African Republic
 France (2013-present)
 South Africa (2012–13)
Anti-balaka Christian militias
Commanders and leaders
Central African Republic Michel Djotodia
Maj. Gen. Joseph Zindeko[2]
Central African Republic François Bozizé
France Francisco Soriano
European Union France Philippe Pontiès
ECCAS logo.gifGabon Jean-Felix Akaga
Levy Yakete
Patrice Edouard Ngaissona
Strength
3,000 (Séléka claim)[3]
1,000–2,000 (Other estimates)[4]
Central African Republic 3,500 soldiers[4]
South Africa 200 soldiers[5]
ECCAS: 3,500+ peacekeepers[3][6]

Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,000
France 2,000[6]
Georgia (country) 140[7]
African Union: 6,000[6]

Unknown
Casualties and losses
500+ rebel casualties (Bangui only, South African claim) Central African Republic unknown number killed or captured
1 policeman killed
South Africa 13 soldiers killed[8]
Republic of the Congo 3 soldiers killed
Democratic Republic of the Congo 2 soldiers killed[9]
France 3 soldiers killed
40
Civilian casualties:
Unknown number killed or wounded
200,000 internally displaced; 20,000 refugees[10]
Total: Thousands killed[11]

A civil war in the Central African Republic, between the Séléka rebel coalition and government forces, began on 10 December 2012.[12] The conflict arose after rebels accused the government of President François Bozizé of failing to abide by peace agreements signed in 2007 and 2011.[12] Many of the rebel groups were previously involved in the Central African Republic Bush War.[12]

Rebel forces known as Séléka (meaning "union" in the Sango language[13]) captured many major towns in the central and eastern regions of the country in the end of 2012. Séléka comprises two major groups based in north-eastern CAR: the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), but also includes the lesser known Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country (CPSK).[14] Two other groups based in northern CAR, the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC)[15] and the Chadian group Popular Front for Recovery (FPR),[16] also announced their allegiance to the Séléka coalition.

Chad,[17] Gabon, Cameroon,[18] Angola,[19] South Africa,[20] Democratic Republic of the Congo[9] and Republic of Congo[21] sent troops as part of the Economic Community of Central African States' FOMAC force to help the Bozizé government hold back a potential rebel advance on the capital, Bangui. However, the capital was seized by the rebels on 24 March 2013[22] at which time François Bozizé fled the country,[23] and the rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president.[24]

On 18 April 2013 Michel Djotodia was recognized as the transitional head of government at a regional summit in N'Djamena.[25] On 14 May CAR's PM Nicolas Tiangaye requested a UN peacekeeping force from the UN Security Council and on May 31 former President Bozizé was indicted for crimes against humanity and incitement of genocide.[26]

The security situation remained poor during June–August 2013 with reports of over 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as human rights abuses including the use of child soldiers, rape, torture, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances[27] as well as renewed fighting between Séléka and Bozizé supporters in August[28] with French President François Hollande calling on the UN Security Council and the African Union to increase their efforts to stabilize the country. By August the Séléka-run government under Djotodia was said to be increasingly divided.[29] The conflict worsened towards the end of the year with international warnings of a "genocide." The fighting was between the government of the Central African Republic's former Séléka coalition of rebel groups, who are mainly from the Muslim minority (as is President Michel Djotodia), and the mainly Christian anti-balaka coalition. In January 2014 President Djotodia resigned[30][31] and was replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza,[32] but the conflict continued.[33]

In 2014, Amnesty International reported several massacres committed by the Anti-balakas against Muslim civilians, forcing thousands of Muslims to flee the country.[34][35] Others sources report incidences of Muslims being cannibalized.[36][37]

Background[edit]

Rebels in northern Central African Republic in June 2007.

The Central African Republic Bush War (2004–2007) began with the rebellion by the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) in North-Eastern Central African Republic, led by Michel Djotodia, after François Bozizé seized power in 2003.[38] This quickly escalated into major fighting during 2004.[39] During this conflict, the UFDR rebel forces fought the CAR government concurrently with several other rebel groups that were located in other parts of the country, including the Groupe d'action patriotique pour la libération de Centrafrique (GAPLC), the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the People's Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), and the Front démocratique Centrafricain (FDC).[40] Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the unrest, which continued until 2007, with rebel forces seizing several cities during the conflict.

On 13 April 2007, a peace agreement between the government and the UFDR was signed in Birao. The agreement provided for an amnesty for the UFDR, its recognition as a political party, and the integration of its fighters into the army.[41][42] Further negotiations resulted in an agreement in 2008 for reconciliation, a unity government, and local elections in 2009 and parliamentary and presidential elections in 2010.[43] The new unity government that resulted was formed in January 2009.[44]

According to the Human Rights Watch, hundreds of civilians were killed, more than 10,000 houses burned, and approximately 212,000 persons fled their homes to live in desperate conditions deep in the bush in northern parts of the Central African Republic.[45] Additionally, rebel groups say that Bozizé has not followed the terms of the 2007 agreement, and that there continue to be political abuses, especially in the northern part of the country, such as "torture and illegal executions".[46]

The road towards coup d'état[edit]

Early skirmishes[edit]

Despite the signing in August 2012 of a peace agreement between the government and the CPJP that promised final closure of the Central African Republic Bush War,[47] political violence continued in eastern and central CAR. On 15 September a dissident faction of the CPJP, led by Colonel Hassan Al Habib and calling itself "Fundamental CPJP", attacked the towns of Sibut, Damara and Dekoa.[48] Two members of the national army, the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) were reportedly killed at Dekoa.

Colonel Al Habib announced on the radio that the Fundamental CPJP was launching an offensive in protest of the peace agreement between the main CPJP faction and the government. The offensive was dubbed "Operation Charles Massi", in memory of the founder of the CPJP who was allegedly tortured and murdered by the CAR government in 2010. Al Habib further stated that his group intended to assault Bangui and overthrow Bozizé.[49][50] In a press release signed by Col. Alkassim, a Fundamental CPJP spokesman[51] a group using the French name alliance CPSK-CPJP took responsibility for the attacks. It claimed that it had killed two additional FACA in Damara and captured military and civilian vehicles, weapons including rockets, and communications equipment. It also reported an unsuccessful assault on a fourth town, Grimari. The alliance promised more operations in future.[52]

Mahamath Isseine Abdoulaye, president of the pro-government CPJP faction, countered that the 15 September attacks were the work of Chadian rebels. He said that the CPJP was committed to the Libreville Global Peace Accord of 2008 and that this group of "thieves" would never be able to march on Bangui. Al Habib was killed by the FACA on 19 September in Daya, a town north of Dekoa.[53]

On 13 November, two civilians and a police officer traveling to Bangui were shot to death on the road between Sibut and Damara, near the village of Libi on the boundary of the Ombella-M'Poko prefecture.[54] Further east in Obo, a FACA vehicle was attacked with RPGs on the same day. A civilian in the vehicle was killed and an unspecified number of troops injured. The vehicle was destroyed. The attack was attributed to Chadian Popular Front for Recovery rebels.[55]

December 2012 rebel offensive[edit]

On 10 December 2012, an armed group seized the towns of N'Délé, Sam Ouandja and Ouadda. Rebels fought with government and allied CPJP troops for over an hour before securing the town of N'Délé.[56] At least five government troops were reportedly killed. At Sam Ouandja, rebels claimed to had captured 22 soldiers and heavy mounted weapons.[57][58]

On 15 December, rebel forces took Bamingui, a town approximately 120 km (75 mi) from N'Délé in a direct line towards Bangui. Three days later they advanced to Bria, an important diamond mining town lying 200 km (120 mi) southeast of Ouadda. The successful early morning rebel assault on 18 December killed over 15 government soldiers. The Séléka claim they are fighting because of a lack of progress after a peace deal ended the 2004–2007 Central African Republic Bush War.[59] Following an appeal for help from Central African President François Bozizé, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby, pledged to send 2000 troops to help quell the rebellion.[60][61] The first Chadian troops arrived on 18 December to reinforce the CAR contingent in Kaga Bandoro, in preparation for a counter-attack on N'Délé.

Séléka forces took Kabo on 19 December, a major hub for transport between Chad and CAR, located west and north of the areas previously taken by the rebels.[62] Four days later the rebel coalition took over Bambari, the country's third largest town,[63] followed by Kaga-Bandoro on 25 December. On the same day, President Bozizé met with military advisers in the capital Bangui.[64]

On 26 December, hundreds of protesters angered by the rebel advance surrounded the French embassy in Bangui, hurling stones, burning tires and tearing down the French flag. The demonstrators accused the former colonial power of failing to help the army fight off rebel forces. At least 50 people, including women and children, were sheltering inside the building, protected by a large contingent of around 250 French troops that surrounded the area.[65] A separate, smaller group of protesters chanted slogans outside the US Embassy and threw stones at cars carrying white passengers, according to news reports. A scheduled Air France weekly flight from Paris to Bangui had to turn back "due to the situation in Bangui", a spokeswoman at the company said.

Later in the day rebel forces reached Damara, bypassing the town of Sibut where around 150 Chadian troops are stationed together with CAR troops that withdrew from Kaga-Bandoro. Josué Binoua, the CAR's minister for territorial administration, requested that France intervene in case the rebels, now only 75 km (47 mi) away, manage to reach the capital Bangui. Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, a spokesman for Séléka, called on the army to lay down its weapons, adding that "Bozizé has lost all his legitimacy and does not control the country."[66]

Two children were beheaded with a total of 16 children killed in Bangui during recent fighting.[67] A total of 1000 people were killed in December.[68]

Government appeals[edit]

On 27 December, Bozizé asked the international community for assistance, specifically France and the United States, during a speech in the capital Bangui. French President François Hollande rejected the appeal, saying that French troops would only be used to protect French nationals in the CAR, and not to defend Bozizé's government. Reports indicated that the U.S. military was preparing plans to evacuate "several hundred" American citizens, as well as other nationals.[69][70] General Jean-Felix Akaga, commander of the Economic Community of Central African States' Multinational Force of Central Africa, said the capital was "fully secured" by the troops from its MICOPAX peacekeeping mission, adding that reinforcements should arrive soon. However, military sources in Gabon and Cameroon denied the report, claiming no decision had been taken regarding the crisis.[71]

Government soldiers launched a counterattack against rebel forces in Bambari on 28 December, leading to heavy clashes, according to a government official. Several witnesses over 60 km (37 mi) away said they could hear detonations and heavy weapons fire for a number of hours. Later, both a rebel leader and a military source confirmed the military attack was repelled and the town remained under rebel control. At least one rebel fighter was killed and three were wounded in the clashes, the military's casualties were unknown.[72]

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) announced that more troops from the Multinational Force for Central Africa (FOMAC) would be sent to the country to support the 560 members of the MICOPAX mission already present. The announcement was done by Chad's Foreign Minister Moussa Faki after a meeting in the Gabonese capital Libreville. At the same time, ECCAS deputy secretary general Guy-Pierre Garcia confirmed that the rebels and the CAR government had agreed to unconditional talks, with the goal to get to negotiations by 10 January at the latest. In Bangui, the U.S. Air Force evacuated around 40 people from the country, including the American ambassador. The International Committee of the Red Cross also evacuated eight of its foreign workers, though local volunteers and 14 other foreigners remained to help the growing number of displaced people.[73]

Rebel forces took over the town of Sibut without firing a shot on 29 December, as at least 60 vehicles with CAR and Chadian troops retreated to Damara, the last city standing between Séléka and the capital. In Bangui, the government ordered a 7 pm to 5 am curfew and banned the use of motorcycle taxis, fearing they could be used by rebels to infiltrate the city. Residents reported many shop-owners had hired groups of armed men to guard their property in anticipation of possible looting, as thousands were leaving the city in overloaded cars and boats. The French military contingent rose to 400 with the deployment of 150 additional paratroopers sent from Gabon to Bangui M'Poko International Airport. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault again stressed that the troops were only present to "protect French and European nationals" and not deal with the rebels.[74][75]

Truce discussions and foreign troops[edit]

On 30 December, President Bozizé agreed to a possible national unity government with members of the Séléka coalition, after meeting with African Union chairperson Thomas Yayi Boni. He added that the CAR government was ready to begin peace talks "without condition and without delay".[3] By 1 January reinforcements from FOMAC began to arrive in Damara to support the 400 Chadian troops already stationed there as part of the MICOPAX mission. With rebels closing in on the capital Bangui, a total of 360 soldiers were sent to boost the defenses of Damara – 120 each from Gabon, Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, with a Gabonese general in command of the force. In the capital itself, deadly clashes erupted after police killed a young Muslim man suspected of links to Séléka. According to news reports, the man was arrested overnight, and was shot when he tried to escape. Shortly after that clashes began in Bangui's PK5 neighborhood, killing one police officer. Meanwhile, in a new development, the US State Department voiced its concern over the "arrests and disappearances of hundreds of individuals who are members of ethnic groups with ties to the Séléka rebel alliance".[18]

On 2 January 2013, a presidential decree read on state radio announced that President Bozizé was the new head of the defense ministry, taking over from his son, Jean Francis Bozize. In addition, army chief Guillaume Lapo was dismissed due to failure of the CAR military to stop the rebel offensive in December.[76] Meanwhile, rebel spokesman Col. Djouma Narkoyo confirmed that Séléka had stopped their advance and will enter peace talks due to start in Libreville on 8 January, on the precondition that government forces stop arresting members of the Gula tribe. The rebel coalition confirmed it will demand the immediate departure of president Bozize, who has pledged to see out his term until its end in 2016. Jean-Félix Akaga, the Gabonese general in charge of the MICOPAX force sent by the ECCAS, declared that Damara represented a "red line that the rebels cannot cross", and that doing so would be "a declaration of war" against the 10 members of the regional bloc. It was also announced that Angola had contributed to the 760 troops stationed in the CAR, while France had further boosted its military presence in the country to 600 troops, sent to protect French nationals in case it is required.[19]

On 6 January, South African President Jacob Zuma announced the deployment of 400 troops to the CAR to assist the forces already present there. Rebel forces secured two small towns near Bambari as peace talks were scheduled to begin in two days.[20]

Attacks on radio stations[edit]

Elisabeth Blanche Olofio, a radio journalist for Radio Bé-Oko, was killed by the Séléka coalition, who attacked the station in Bambari, Central African Republic and another Radio Kaga in Kaga Bandoro on 7 January 2013.[77][78][79] Radio Bé-Oko is part of a larger network of apolitical radio stations operating in the Central African Republic, known as L'Association des Radios Communautaires de Centrafrique.[80][81] The international press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders based in France said it was concerned that the rebel attacks were taking their toll on the ability of radio stations to operate in the C.A.R.[82] Just four days after her murder on 11 January, the government of CAR signed a ceasefire agreement with Séléka representatives.[83]

Ceasefire agreement[edit]

On 11 January 2013, a ceasefire agreement was signed in Libreville, Gabon.On 13 January, Bozizé signed a decree that removed Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra from power, as part of the agreement with the rebel coalition.[84] The rebels dropped their demand for President François Bozizé to resign, but he had to appoint a new prime minister from the opposition party by 18 January 2013.[46] On 17 January, Nicolas Tiangaye was appointed Prime Minister.[85]

The terms of the agreement also included that National Assembly of the Central African Republic be dissolved within a week with a year-long coalition government formed in its place and a new legislative election be held within 12 months (with the possibly of postponement).[86] In addition the temporary coalition government had to implement judicial reforms, amalgamate the rebel troops with the Bozizé government's troops in order to establish a new national military, set up the new legislative elections, as well as introduce other social and economic reforms.[86] Furthermore, Bozizé's government must free all political prisoners imprisoned during the conflict, and foreign troops must return to their countries of origin.[46] Under the agreement, Séléka rebels were not required to give up the cities they have taken or were then occupying, allegedly as a way to ensure that the Bozizé government would not renege on the agreement.[46]

Bozizé, who was to remain president until 2016 when there were to be new presidential elections, said the agreement was "... a victory for peace because from now on Central Africans in conflict zones will be finally freed from their suffering."[87]

On 23 January 2013, the ceasefire was broken, with the government blaming Séléka[88] and Séléka blaming the government for allegedly failing to honor the terms of the power-sharing agreement.[89] By 21 March, the rebels had advanced to Bouca, 300 km from the capital Bangui.[89] On 22 March, the fighting reached the town of Damara, 75 km from the capital,[90] with conflicting reports as to which side was in control of the town.[91] Rebels overtook the checkpoint at Damara and advanced toward Bangui, but were stopped with an aerial assault from an attack helicopter.[92]

Fall of Bangui[edit]

On 18 March 2013, the rebels kept their five ministers from returning to Bangui following talks about the peace process in the town of Sibut. The rebels demanded the release of political prisoners and the integration of rebel forces into the national army. Séléka also wanted South African soldiers who had been on assignment in Central African Republic to leave the country. Séléka threatened to take up arms again if the demands were not met, giving the government a deadline of 72 hours. Before that the rebels seized control of two towns in the country's southeast, Gambo and Bangassou.[93]

On 22 March 2013, the rebels renewed their offensive. They took control of the towns of Damara and Bossangoa. After Damara fell, fears were widespread in Bangui that the capital too would soon fall, and a sense of panic pervaded the city, with shops and schools closed.[94] Government forces briefly halted the rebel advance by firing on the rebel columns with an attack helicopter,[92] but by 23 March, the rebels shot down the helicopter,[95] entered Bangui, and were "heading for the Presidential Palace," according to Séléka spokesman Nelson Ndjadder.[96] Rebels reportedly managed to push out government soldiers in the neighbourhood surrounding Bozizé's private residence, though the government maintained that Bozizé remained in the Presidential Palace in the centre of the city.[97]

Fighting died down during the night as power and water supplies were cut off. Rebels held the northern suburbs whilst the government retained control of the city centre. A government spokesman insisted that Bozizé remained in power and that the capital was still under government control.[98]

Coup d'état[edit]

On 24 March, rebels reached the presidential palace in the centre of the capital, where heavy gunfire erupted.[99] The presidential palace and the rest of the capital soon fell to rebel forces and Bozizé fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[23][100] "A presidential adviser said he had crossed the river into DRC on Sunday morning [24 March] as rebel forces headed for the presidential palace."[101] He was later said to have sought temporary refuge in Cameroon, according to that country's government.[102] The United Nations refugee agency received a request from the Congolese government to help move 25 members of Bozizé's family from the border town of Zongo.[103] A spokesman for the president stated that "The rebels control the town; I hope there will not be any reprisals."[103]

Rebel leaders claimed to have told their men to refrain from any theft or reprisals but residents in the capital are said to have engaged in widespread looting. Water and power have been cut to the city.[100] Rebel fighters directed looters towards the houses of army officers but fired their rifles in the air to protect the homes of ordinary citizens.[103]

Thirteen South African soldiers were killed and twenty-seven wounded and one was missing after their base on the outskirts of Bangui was attacked by an armed rebel group of 3,000 rebels, starting an intense firefight between the rebels and the base's 400 South African National Defence Force soldiers that lasted an unspecified amount of time.[104] General Solly Shoke, the Chief of the South African National Defence Force, stated at a press conference on 24 March 2013 that the SANDF soldiers had 'inflicted heavy losses' on the rebels, retained control of their base and forced the rebels into a ceasefire. Shoke also confirmed that there are no plans as yet for the South African troops to leave the Central African Republic.[105] The SANDF forces of about 200 soldiers faced 3000 experienced armed rebels, by the time the rebels proposed a cease-fire they had lost 500 men to the 13 killed and 27 wounded of the SANDF.[106][107]

Several peacekeepers from the Central African regional force, including three Chadians, were also killed on 24 March, when a helicopter operated by Bozize's forces attacked them, Chad's presidency said in a statement.[103]

A company of French troops secured Bangui M'Poko International Airport, while a diplomatic source confirmed that Paris had asked for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss the rebel advance.[108] France sent 350 soldiers to ensure the security of its citizens, a senior official told AFP, bringing the total number of French troops in CAR to nearly 600, though a spokesman has stated that there are no plans to send further troops to the country.[100][109] On 26 March French defence ministry said that French troops guarding the airport had accidentally killed two Indian citizens. The soldiers shot at three vehicles approaching the airport after firing warning shots and themselves coming under fire, the statement said. Two Indian nationals and a number of Cameroonians were wounded in the attack.[110]

On 25 March 2013, Séléka leader Michel Djotodia, who served after the January agreement as First Deputy Prime Minister for National Defense, declared himself President. Djotodia said that there would be a three-year transitional period and that Nicolas Tiangaye would continue to serve as Prime Minister.[111] Djotodia promptly suspended the constitution and dissolved the government, as well as the National Assembly.[112] He then reappointed Tiangaye as Prime Minister on 27 March 2013.[113][114]

Séléka in power[edit]

Following the rebel victory in the capital, small pockets of resistance remained and fought against the new regime. The resistance consisted mostly of youths that received weapons from the former government. Over 100 soldiers loyal to the former government were holed up at a base 60 km from the capital, refusing to surrender their weapons, although talks were underway to allow them to return to their homes. By 27 March, electric power was slowly being restored across the capital and the overall security situation was beginning to improve.[115]

Top military and police officers met with Djotodia and recognized him as President on 28 March 2013, in what was viewed as "a form of surrender".[116]

On 30 March, officials from the Red Cross announced that they had found 78 bodies in the capital Bangui since rebels seized it a week earlier. It was unclear if the casualties were civilians or whether they belonged to one of the factions in the conflict.[117]

A new government headed by Tiangaye, with 34 members, was appointed on 31 March 2013; Djotodia retained the defense portfolio. There were nine members of Séléka in the government, along with eight representatives of the parties that had opposed Bozizé, while only one member of the government was associated with Bozizé.[118][119] 16 positions were given to representatives of civil society. The former opposition parties were unhappy with the composition of the government; on 1 April, they declared that they would boycott the government to protest its domination by Séléka. They argued that the 16 positions given to representatives of civil society were in fact "handed over to Séléka allies disguised as civil society activists".[120]

On 3 April 2013, African leaders meeting in Chad declared that they did not recognize Djotodia as President; instead, they proposed the formation of an inclusive transitional council and the holding of new elections in 18 months, rather than three years as envisioned by Djotodia. Speaking on 4 April, Information Minister Christophe Gazam Betty said that Djotodia had accepted the proposals of the African leaders; however, he suggested that Djotodia could remain in office if he were elected to head the transitional council.[121] Djotodia accordingly signed a decree on 6 April for the formation of a transitional council that would act as a transitional parliament. The council was tasked with electing an interim president to serve during an 18-month transitional period leading to new elections.[122]

The transitional council, composed of 105 members, met for the first time on 13 April 2013 and immediately elected Djotodia as interim President; there were no other candidates.[123] A few days later, regional leaders publicly accepted Djotodia's transitional leadership, but, in a symbolic show of disapproval, stated that he would "not be called President of the Republic, but Head of State of the Transition". According to the plans for the transition, Djotodia would not stand as a candidate for President in the election that would conclude the transition.[124]

Djotodia period[edit]

Post-Djotodia period[edit]

Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye resigned on 10 January 2014.[125] Despite the resignation of Djotodia, conflict still continued.[126] On 19 January, Save the Children reported that in Bouar gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade in an attempt to halt a convoy of Muslim refugees trying to flee the violence. The gunmen then attacked them with firearms, machetes and clubs resulting in 22 deaths.[127] The UN had also warned of a possibility of genocide.[128]

The National Transitional Council elected the new interim president of the Central Africa Republic after Nguendet became the acting chief of state. Nguendet, being the president of the provisional parliament and viewed as being close to Djotodia, did not run for the election under diplomatic pressure.[129] The parliament validated the candidatures of 8 people out of 24.[130]

Samba-Panza period[edit]

On January 20, 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was elected as the interim president in the second round voting.[32] The election of Samba-Panza was welcomed by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.[131] Samba-Panza was viewed as having been neutral and away from clan clashes. Her arrival to the presidency was generally accepted by both the ex-Séléka and the anti-balaka sides. Following the election, Samba-Panza made a speech in the parliament appealing to the ex-Séléka and the anti-balaka for putting down their weapons.[132]

The next day anti-Muslim violence continued in Bangui,[133] just days after the Muslim former Health Minister Dr. Joseph Kalite was lynched outside the Central Mosque[134] and at least nine other people were killed when attacked when a mob, some of who were from Christian self-defence groups, looted shops in the Muslim-majority Miskine neighbourhood of Bangui.[135]

The European Union then decided to set up its first military operations in six years when foreign ministers approved the sending of up to 1,000 soldiers to the country by the end of February to be based around Bangui. Estonia promised to send soldiers, while Lithuania, Slovenia, Finland, Belgium, Poland and Sweden were considering sending troops; Germany, Italy and Great Britain announced that they would not send soldiers. The move still needed UNSC approval.[136] As of 20 January, the ICRC reported that it had buried about 50 bodies within 48 hours.[137] It also came after a mob killed two people who they accused of being Muslim, then dragged the bodies through the streets and burnt them.[138] Within the previous month, about 1,000 people had died.[139]

In Boali, Muslims sought refuge from sectarian violence at a church, while MISCA troops were present to maintain security.[140] On 27 January, Séléka leaders left Bangui under the escort of Chadian peacekeepers. At the same time, eight people were killed and seven others were wounded by a mob in Bangui. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also said: "The United States is prepared to consider targeted sanctions against those who further destabilise the situation, or pursue their own selfish ends by abetting or encouraging the violence."[141] Two days later, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to approve sending European Union troops and to give them a mandate to use force, as well as threatening sanctions against those responsible for the violence. The E.U. had pledged 500 troops to aid African and French troops already in the country. Specifically the resolution allowed for the use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.[142]

On 5 February, following a speech by Samba-Panza had told 4,000 troops and dignitaries at the National School of Magistrates that she had "pride in seeing so many elements of the Central African Republic Forces reunited," uniformed soldiers attacked a civilian youth by stamping on his head, stabbing him and throwing stones at him after accusing him of being an infiltrated Séléka member. His body was then dragged through the streets as MISCA troops looked on; it was then dismembered and burned before the MISCA troops intervened to disperse the crowd with tear gas and firing shots into the air. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "This sectarian violence must end. [The people of the CAR] break the cycle of violence. [They] must seize the opportunity afforded by its newly appointed transitional leadership and a strong level of international support to end the present crisis and move toward a stable and peaceful society."[143] The aftermath of Djotodia's presidency was said to be without law, a functioning police and courts. Comparisons were drawn in asking if this would be the "next Rwanda;" although Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips suggested the Bosnian Genocide's aftermath may be more apt as people were moving into religiously cleansed neighbourhoods.[144] National Transitional Council member, Jean-Emmanuel Ndjaroua, was killed by unknown gunmen in early February. This was condemned by the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), whose leader, General Babacar Gaye, condemned the killing and the violence as "unnecessary and indiscriminate violence that creates a climate of fear and encourages the emergence of acts of banditry."[145]

As UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon warned of a de facto partition of the country into Muslim and Christian areas as a result of the sectarian fighting,[146] He also called the conflict an "urgent test" for the UN and the region's states.[147] Amnesty International blamed the anti-Balaka militia of causing a "Muslim exodus of historic proportions."[148] Samba-Panza suggested poverty and a failure of governance was the cause of the conflict.[149] Some Muslims of the country were also weary of the French presence in MISCA, with the French accused of not doing enough to stop attacks by Christian militias. One of the cited reasons for the difficulty in stopping attacks by anti-Balaka militias was the mob nature of these attacks.[150]

On 4 February 2014, a local priest said 75 people were killed in the town of Boda, in Lobaye province.[151]

On 5 February, Samba-Panza gave a speech to a group of Central African soldiers in the Bangui area. Moments after she left in her presidential motorcade, the soldiers lynched a man suspected of being a Séléka member.[152]

On 9 February, fighting broke out between Christian vigilantes and Muslims in the west of Bangui, killing 10 people, and leaving many buildings torched. A suspected Christian militiaman killed a Muslim civilian, and was about to burn the body when Rwandan soldiers of the African peacekeeping force MISCA shot him dead.[153]

On 10 February, Jean-Emmanuel Ndjaroua, a member of Samba-Panza's transitional government, was killed by unknown gunmen.[145]

On 15 February, France announced that it would send an additional 400 troops to the country. French President Francois Hollande's office called for "increased solidarity" with the CAR and for the United Nations Security Council to accelerate the deployment of peacekeeping troops to the CAR.[154] Moon then also called for the rapid deployment of 3,000 additional international peacekeepers.[155]

In the northeast of the country, the former Séléka rebels were reported to be regrouping amid fears of continued reprisal attacks against Muslims in Christian areas and vice versa. In the aforementioned part of the country a new armed movement named Justice et Redressement was reported to be operating in and around Paoua and Boguila. Though its goals were unknown, there were threats that the weakening writ of the state could evolve into third-party armed groups form to pursue their own agendas, while even violent Islamist groups could appear.[156]

In the southwest, anti-Balata militants attacked Guen in early February resulting in the deaths of 60 people, according to Father Rigobert Dolongo, who also said that he had helped bury the bodies of the dead, at least 27 of whom died on the first day of the attack and 43 others the next day. As a result, hundreds of Muslim refugees sought shelter at a church in Carnot.[157] In the end of the month, French President Francois Hollande made another trip to the country after a security conference in Nigeria. He met the French MISCA contingent, Samba-Panza and other unnamed religious leaders.[158] UN humanitarian coordinator Abdou Dieng said that only about US$100 million, or one-fifth of that which was pledged, had arrived in the country to fight a food shortage. He also warned of a food crisis that was thus looming.[159] On a visit to Angola at the behest of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who was praised for his "special involvement" in the country, Samba-Panza said: "We do not have a situation of genocide, but the situation prevailing is really worrying, so we are fighting to take security to all population, no matter their religions." She also suggested that while the situation was "worrying" it was "under control."[160] By mid-March, the UNSC has authorised a probe into possible genocide, which in turn followed International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou BEnsouda initiating a preliminary investigation into the "extreme brutality" and whether it falls into the court's remit. The UNSC mandate probe would be led by Cameroonian lawyer Bernard Acho Muna, who was the deputy chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castaneda and Mauritanian lawyer Fatimata M'Baye.[161] On 13 March, a group of religious leaders — Imam Omar Layama, Reverend Nicolas Gbangou and Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga — asked the Ban-ki Moon to redouble efforts to bring peace to the country.[162]

Flavien Mulume, the acting commander of the Congolese contingent of MISCA, said that two Rwandan peacekeepers were wounded by the anti-Balaka after fighting on 23 March in Bangui. The next day, angry youths had set up barricades to block the MISCA troops from entering an unnamed neighborhood.[163] On 30 March, a group of Christian mourners was attacked by a Muslim who threw a grenade and resulted in 11 deaths, according to the national Red Cross.[164] On 29 March, Chadian peacekeepers that were not a part of MISCA entered Bangui's PK12 district market in a convoy of pick-up trucks at about 15:00 and allegedly indiscriminately opened fire resulting in 30 deaths and over 300 injuries, according to the UN. Some sources indicated they were in Bangui to evacuate Chadians and other Muslims from the anti-Balaka. On 3 April, Chad announced the withdrawal of its forces from MISCA, which the UN hoped would prevent further incursions by troops travelling directly from Chad.[165] The first batch of 55 EUFOR troops arrived in Bangui, according to the French army, and carried out its first patrol on 9 April with the intention of "maintaining security and training local officers." France called for a vote at the UNSC the next day and expected a unanimous resolution authorising 10,000 troops and 1,800 police to replace the over 5,000 African Union soldiers on 15 September;[166] the motion was then approved.[167] On 10 April, MISCA troops escorted over 1,000 Muslims fleeing to Chad with a police source saying "not a single Muslim remains in Bossangoa."[168] In the week of 14 May, former Séléka rebels shot and killed a Christian priest in Paoua. The next week, Dimanche Ngodi, an official in Grimari, said that during a clash between the anti-Balaka and the former Séléka rebels French MISCA troops intervened resulting in several deaths. Captain Sebastien Isern, spokesman for the French troops, said the anti-Balaka group had been "neutralised."[169]

Refugees fleeing the country have crossed the Oubangi into the Democratic Republic of Congo.[170]

In May 2014, it was reported that around 600,000 people in CAR were internally displaced with 160,000 of these in the capital Bangui. The Muslim population of Bangui had dropped from 138,000 to 900. The national health system had collapsed and over half of the total population of 4.6 million were said to be in need of immediate aid. Also from December 2013 to May 2014, 100,000 people had fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo bringing the number of CAR refugees in these countries to about 350,000.[171]

On 28 May, Séléka rebels stormed a Catholic church compound, killing at least 30.[172]

On 2 June, the government banned text messaging, deeming it a security threat, after calls for a general strike were made via SMS.[173]

On 23 June, anti-balaka forces killed 18 members of the mostly Muslim village of Bambari. Several young Séléka took revenge against this attack the same day by killing 10 anti-balaka.[174] On 8 July, 17 people were killed when Séléka forces attacked a Catholic church in Bambari, believing that the church was supposedly sheltering anti-balaka troops.

On 12 July, Michel Djotodia was reinstated as the head of Séléka,[175] and the group changed its name to "The Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic".[176]

Ceasefire[edit]

After three days of talks,[177] a ceasefire was signed on 24 July 2014 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.[178] The Séléka representative to the ceasefire was General Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane,[178] and the anti-Balaka representative was Patrick Edouard Ngaissona.[177] The talks were mediated by Congolese president Denis Sassou Nguesso.[177] Dhaffane and the Séléka delegation had pushed for a formalization of the partition of the Central African Republic with Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. However, this demand was dropped during the talks with Ngaissona and President Nguesso.[179] French peacekeepers continued to monitor the central city of Bambari amidst the Muslims lack of confidence in the ceasefire.[179]

On 25 July, Séléka's military leader Joseph Zindeko rejected the ceasefire agreement and, instead, called for the partition of the Central African Republic into separate Christian and Muslim states.[180]

Officials in Mbrès stated that 34 people were killed by Séléka fighters in Mbrès and neighboring villages between 10–15 August.[181]

International response[edit]

Organizations[edit]

A Rwandan soldier near a refugee camp full of displaced residents
  • African Union – Yayi Boni, then-chairman of the African Union, held a press conference in Bangui, stating, "I beg my rebellious brothers, I ask them to cease hostilities, to make peace with President Bozizé and the Central African people … If you stop fighting, you are helping to consolidate peace in Africa. African people do not deserve all this suffering. The African continent needs peace and not war."[182] Boni went on to call for dialogue between the current government and the rebels.[182] The African Union suspended the Central African Republic from its membership on 25 March 2013.[183]
  •  European Union – On 21 December 2012 the High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton called on the armed rebel groups to "cease all hostilities and to respect the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement." European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva added that she was deeply worried over the situation in the country and that she strongly urged "all armed groups to respect international humanitarian law and the activities of humanitarians".[184] On 1 January Ashton once again expressed concern over the violence and urged all parties involved to "take all necessary measures to end, without delay, all exactions against populations in Bangui neighbourhoods that undermine chances of a peaceful dialogue."[185]

On 10 February 2014, the European Union established a military operation entitled EUFOR RCA, with the aim "to provide temporary support in achieving a safe and secure environment in the Bangui area, with a view to handing over to African partners." The French Major General Philippe Pontiès was appointed as a commander of this force.[186]

  •  United Nations – On 26 December 2012 the U.N. announced it was pulling all non-essential personnel out of the country due to the worsening security situation. In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the rebels' advance and warned that it had the potential to "gravely undermine the peace agreements in place." He also called on the government "to ensure the safety and security of U.N. personnel and its premises."[66][187]

Countries[edit]

Regional
  •  Gabon/ Chad/ Cameroon/ Congo/ Equatorial Guinea sent troops in 2013 to make up an African Union Multinational Force for Central Africa (FOMAC) peacekeeping force in CAR.[188][189]
Others
  •  Brazil – On 25 December 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil issued a statement "urging the parties to observe an immediate cessation of hostilities and any acts of violence against the civilian population" and called for "the restoration of institutional legality in the Central African Republic". The Brazilian government stated that it has been in contact with the small number of Brazilian nationals residing in the country.[190]
  •  Estonia – On 9 May 2014, sent 55 troops to join the EU's EUFOR RCA mission.[191]
  •  Georgia – 140 troops joined EU's military mission in the Central African Republic.[7]
  •  France – On 27 December 2012, CAR President Francois Bozizé requested international assistance to help with the rebellion, in particular from France and the United States. French President François Hollande rejected the plea, saying that the 250 French troops stationed at Bangui M'Poko International Airport are there "in no way to intervene in the internal affairs". Separately, a Foreign Ministry statement condemned "the continued hostility by the rebel groups", adding that the only solution to the crisis was dialogue.[192]
  •  South Africa South Africa had numerous troops in the CAR since 2007. A Special Forces unit protected President Bozizé under Operation Morero and a second group trained FACA under Operation Vimbezela.[193] Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula traveled to Bangui on 31 December 2012 to assess the situation.[194] On 8 January 2013 the South African National Defence Force deployed 200 additional troops to the CAR, half of the force authorized by President Jacob Zuma.[195] On 21 March President Bozizé traveled to Pretoria to meet with Zuma,[196] allegedly to discuss the 72-hour ultimatum that the rebels had given him.[197] The South African troops from the 1 Parachute Battalion suffered 13 killed and 27 wounded[198] while defending against the advancing Séléka. On 24 March 2013 SANDF soldiers began withdrawing to Entebbe air base, with the reported intention to return to the CAR to retake control from Séléka.[199]
  •  United States of America – On 17 December 2012 the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council published an emergency message warning US citizens about armed groups active in Mbrès and advising them to avoid travel outside Bangui. US Embassy personnel were prohibited from traveling by road outside the capital.[200] On 24 December the State Department issued another warning. All non-essential personnel were evacuated, and the embassy switched to limited emergency consular services.[201] On 28 December, the United States Embassy in Bangui suspended operations due to the ongoing rebel attacks;[202] with Ambassador Laurence D. Wohlers and his diplomatic staff evacuating the country.[203]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

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