Foreign relations of the Central African Republic
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Central African Republic
President François Bozizé has said that one of his priorities is to get the support of the international community. This has indeed been visible in his relations to donor countries and international organisations. At the same time it is difficult to have an open policy towards neighbouring countries when they are used as safe haven by rebels regularly attacking Central African Republic (C.A.R.), or when one allied country is in war with another (as is Chad–Sudan). The Military of the Central African Republic cannot–even with the support of France and the Multinational Force of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (FOMUC)–exert control over its own borders. Hence, armed groups are regularly entering the country from Chad and Sudan. The President said in an interview that he has a good relation with neighbours and fellow CEMAC countries, "put aside the incident with Sudan when the border had to be closed since militia entered C.A.R. territory".
Participation in International Organisations
The Central African Republic is an active member in several Central African organizations, including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC), the Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX- still under formation), and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Standardization of tax, customs, and security arrangements between the Central African states is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R. Government. The C.A.R. is a participant in the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and the African Union (AU).
Other multilateral organizations—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations agencies, European Union, and the African Development Bank—and bilateral donors—including Germany, Japan, the European Union, and the United States—are significant development partners for the C.A.R.
Nineteen countries have resident diplomatic representatives in Bangui, and the C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the government recognizes both Israel and the Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. The C.A.R. generally joins other African and developing country states in consensus positions on major policy issues. The most important countries the C.A.R. maintains bilateral relations include the following.
Although drops in its external assistance budget have reduced French military and social development aid to the country, France remains the most important bilateral donor and the country from which C.A.R. receives most imports. Its historic ties, its long military presence as well as its economic influence have also given it a political influence. The country closed its military bases in Bangui and Bouar in 1997 as a part of its new Africa policy and relations with C.A.R. decreased during the rule of former president Ange-Félix Patassé. France was however the first country to recognise Bozizé's government and during his time in power France has given logistic and intelligence support to the peace missions in the country.
Cameroon is probably the foreign country that most Central Africans identify with, since most people live in the western part of the country, close to the Cameroon border. It is also the most important regional trade partner of C.A.R.; most of the country's imports pass through the port of Douala, before being transported by truck to C.A.R.. Most of the 1,450 km road to the coast is now paved, only a short distance remains. Following the increase of violence in north-western C.A.R. in late-2005, there were at the end of 2006 about 48,000 refugees from C.A.R. in Cameroon.
Chad is one of President Bozizé's closest allies. Before seizing power in 2003, Bozizé's rebel group was equipped and trained in Chad. The group that finally overthrew President Patassé consisted of–in addition to Bozizé's own rebels–100 soldiers from Chad's Military. In addition to the 121 Chadian soldiers in the Multinational Force in the Central African Republic (FOMUC), there are still 150 soldiers from Chad in the C.A.R. The majority is found within the president's lifeguard, while others patrol Bangui and the north-west parts of the country. Chad's president Idriss Déby has an interest in tranquility in north-western C.A.R., due to the proximity to the location of the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project. In April 2006, the Chadian rebel group United Front for Democratic Change, which is based in Darfur used C.A.R. as a transit route to Chad, when attacking N'Djamena. Bozizé, who has received much support from President Déby, immediately decided to close the C.A.R.-Sudan border (a decision which he has no capacity at all to enforce). The border was officially closed between April and December. Already a couple of weeks later, an Antonov cargo plane crossed the border from Sudan and landed at Tiringoulou airport in C.A.R., where it unloaded weapons and about 50 armed men who spread out in the area. In the end of June, Central African military and FOMUC peacekeepers clashed with these men near Gordil, resulting in at least 30 casualties.
Chad had also maintained good relations with the previous president, Patassé. They were one of the countries that sent troops to defend Patassé during the mutinies in 1996-1997 and assisted in negotiating the subsequent Bangui Agreements. Following the increase of violence in north-western C.A.R. in late-2005, there were at the end of 2006 about 50,000 refugees from C.A.R. in Chad.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bozizé has surprisingly good relations both with the DRC President Joseph Kabila and the former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. When the old president Kolingba tried to overthrow Patassé in May 2001, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) came to his rescue. MLC controlled the northern part of DRC and its rebels were stationed on the other side of the Ubangi river from Bangui. The MLC executed between 60 and 120 persons, mainly from the Yakoma tribe and committed atrocities–including killing, looting and rape–against the population. This terror and the crimes carried out during MLC's war against Bozizé's rebels between October 2002 and March 2003 is now being investigated by the International Criminal Court, which says it has identified 600 rape victims and the real numbers are expected to be higher. Most of the crimes were committed by Congolese MLC soldiers, but Bozizé's rebels, including elements from Chad, were also responsible. During Bozizé's time in power, new clashes have taken place between his soldiers and the MLC. Bozizé has strengthened military presence along the border and deployed an amphibious force patrolling the Ubangi river. There were refugees from DRC in C.A.R. from July 1999 (when Kabila advanced in the region bordering C.A.R.). The refugees were repatriated following an agreement between UNHCR and the governments of the two countries in 2004. Refugees from C.A.R. in DRC were beginning to be repatriated in July 2004.
Relations with Gabon are good, although it is not a neighbouring country. Gabon hosted a meeting in 2005, to solve the crisis following Bozizé barring of some candidates in the election.
Libya still plays an important role in the domestic politics of C.A.R.. Libya assisted C.A.R. in negotiating a peace agreement was signed in Tripoli in February 2007, between President Bozizé and the head of the Front démocratique du people centrafricain (FDPC) rebel movement (who is also said to have close ties to Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), the rebel group that seized several cities in northern C.A.R. in November 2006). Libya was previously one of the former president Patassé's closest allies, providing him with strong military support when he no longer trusted his own military or France. Patassé granted Libyan enterprises outstanding economic advantages, such as a 99 year concession on diamonds, gold, oil and uranium all over the country. It is not known whether these agreements are still valid, but Bozizé has anyway a continuously good relation with Libya.
Republic of the Congo
During the election in 2005, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso openly supported Bozizé. The current FOMUC mission in C.A.R. includes soldiers from Congo-Brazzaville.
Given that Bozizé accuses Sudan of supporting the UFDR rebels who are actively fighting the Central African Government, the relation between the two countries has remained good. Bozizé even planned to visit Khartoum in December 2006, but had to cancel his trip when Chad (which has strained relations with the Sudanese Government) threatened to withdraw its military support to C.A.R. Bozizé says that he is afraid of getting involved in the Darfur crisis and claims that the solution is in the hands of the Sudanese president. During the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005), there was a massive uncontrolled crossing of the Sudan-C.A.R. border by soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), looking for safety during periods of attacks or drought. At the same time, C.A.R. was used by Sudan Armed Forces when launching attacks on the SPLA. Moreover, thousands of Sudanese refugees lived in C.A.R.; at the peak of the influx, by the early 1990s there were 36,000 Sudanese refugees in Mboki in south-east C.A.R. About half of the refugees were SPLA soldiers with more than 5000 weapons, who allegedly occupied towns as far as 200 km into the C.A.R. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was forced to close its refugee camp at Mboki in October 2002, due to the high prevalence of weapons. After the ending of the war, all refugees were repatriated to Sudan; the last of the 9,700 remaining in Central African Republic were evacuated in April 2007. Sudan was one of the contributors to the peacekeeping force of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in Central African Republic in 2001-2002.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Peace Corps missions previously operating in Bangui did not return. The American Embassy in Bangui again temporarily suspended operations on November 2, 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of François Bozizé's 2003 military coup.
The Embassy reopened in January 2005; however, there currently is limited U.S. diplomatic/consular representation in the C.A.R. As a result, the ability of the Embassy to provide services to American citizens remains extremely limited. The United States Department of State approved the lifting of Section 508 aid restrictions triggered by the coup; U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic had been prohibited except in the areas of humanitarian aid and support for democratization.
- List of diplomatic missions in the Central African Republic
- List of diplomatic missions of the Central African Republic
- – François Bozizé se confie au Messager, June 21, 2007[dead link]
- – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- – Small Arms Survey, A widening war around Sudan: The proliferation of armed groups in the Central African Republic[dead link]
- – International Criminal Court: Background – Situation in the Central African Republic, 22 May 2007 Archived June 27, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- – UNHCR: Fiche Pays République Centrafricaine, January 2005
- – Jeune Afrique: Accord de paix en Libye entre le gouvernement centrafricain et des rebelles, 3 February, 2007
- – Afrique Education n° 119 – du 1er au 15 Novembre 2002
- – http://www.unhcr.org – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Central African Republic