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Central African Republic - C.A.R.

The CAR is an area [calling it a "state" or a "country" would be too strong] defined by its borders on the map and not by effective state control of territory. Though named a "ghost state" in an International Crisis Group report in 2007, the CAR is perhaps better classified as a "hollow state". On the surface, the CAR appeared to function and could credibly claim that its problems were the result of demographics, AIDS, historic poverty, and isolation. But this is misleading. While it had a structure that was able to feign functionality and had agents in most parts of the country, few of these agents actually conducted the business of the state or achieved any results. It had executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and a military, but outside of disparate geographic pockets, its control was exceedingly limited.

As of 2010, 90 percent of the uranium deposits in Bakouma were owned by Uramin, a private corporation in which Areva, the French nuclear giant, is 100 percent shareholder. The impact of this set up is exacerbated by the fact that 75 percent of France's energy is derived from nuclear sources, giving Areva and France significant financial interest in what happens in the CAR.

Nomadic and seminomadic cattle herders are generally not welcome in agricultural areas. Clashes develop when the herders come under attack, and then retaliate. Almost inevitably, the fighting takes on religious or ethnic overtones. The seasonal migration of cattle from north to south leads to further violence. Herders allow their livestock to roam over cultivated land — a common practice that is one of the root causes of bad relations between herders and farmers. Providing vaccination services for cattle might persuade herders to follow recommended trails instead.

The population is 4.5 million, according to a 2011 World Bank estimate. According to the 2003 census, the population is 51 percent Protestant, 29 percent Roman Catholic, and 15 percent Muslim. Others incorporate aspects of indigenous beliefs into Christian and Islamic practice. Muslims continued to face consistent social discrimination and, in many cases, by 2012 were presumed to be sympathetic to rebel groups which were predominantly Muslim. Muslim-owned shops were frequently vandalized and, in some cases, vigilantes subjected Muslims to harassment, beating, and detention.

The Central African Republic (CAR) gained independence from France in 1960 but has since seen many conflicts, coups and uprisings. This land-locked nation has known little but instability since independence. In 2008, the Central African Republic ranked 178 out of 179 on the Human Development Index. CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the only countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that had not improved human development since the 1980s. In 2011, the Central African Republic ranked 178 out of 187 on the Human Development Index.

Despite massive natural wealth that should provide a comfortable standard of living for its 4.3 million inhabitants, the CAR continues to struggle with extreme poverty, malnutrition, rampant banditry and several festering insurgencies. Periodic skirmishes persist over water and grazing rights among related pastoral populations along the border with southern Sudan. Factional fighting between the government and its opponents remains a hindrance to revitalization. The Central African Republic is one of the world's least developed nations, and despite an on-going peace process and the presence of a democratically-elected government in the capital, Bangui, rebels are still active in large portions of the country's northern and eastern provinces.

Governance in the Central African Republic (CAR) was extremely weak due to numerous political upheavals dating back to the 1980s. Instability endures as a result of the presence of multiple insurgent groups, bands of highway robbers active throughout the north, an extremely weak and often ineffective military, and limited state presence outside of Bangui. While the CAR Government has shown improvement in its financial management, it remains deeply underfunded and relies heavily on donor support.

The fundamental problem of the CAR was at least thirty years of weak and corrupt governments that failed (if they even attempted) to forge a national consensus and develop the country. Rebel groups were merely one symptom of the disease of poor governance - not the root cause of instability. Similarly, cross border adventures into the CAR by Chadians and Sudanese were not symptoms of the spread of the Chad/Sudan/Darfur conflict. Most Chadians and Sudanese who were active in the CAR were there as opportunists or at the invitation of various CAR factions looking for experienced help.

The international community and the government of the Central African Republic (CARG) had attached much importance to Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) as the solution to the Central African Republic's (CAR) long running conflict. This would appear logical - disarm the rebels and reintegrate them back in to a peaceful society. This process, promoted by the United Nations (UN) in the Central African Republic (CAR) was beset by problems such as the slow roll out of the program, mismanagement of funds by the government (CARG) and difficulty raising funds from the international community. Despite an agreement reached in April 2009 that produced a list of rebels to be disarmed and the acceptance by the CARG to use money granted by the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) for DDR for its expressed purpose, observers placed too much faith in the process as a solution to the CAR's ills.

Until the CAR Government had the means, and more importantly, the will, to fill the vacuum left behind by disarmed groups, both on a security and economic front, the effort was unlikely to accomplish its goals. And beyond that was the overarching problem that the CAR was a failed state - there was simply no economy into which former combatants can be "reintegrated."

Recent Developments - 2013

There was a complete breakdown of law and order in the country following the ouster of former President François Bozizé in March 2013. As rebels pushed south toward Bangui in early 2013, the president they would oust, Francois Bozize, was making speeches referring to "mercenary-terrorists" and "foreigners" coming to "Islamize" the country. After riding to power on the back of an insurrection known as Seleka, the new dictator, Michel Djotodia, found it difficult to disengage.

Seleka, originally a political alliance, transformed into a militia of about 25,000 men, up to 90% of which came from Chad and Sudan and therefore constitute in the eyes of many a foreign invasion force. They do not speak the local language, and are Muslim in a nation that is roughly 80% Christian. They targeted churches for destruction and stirred up sectarian hatreds where none had existed previously. Indeed, the Sudanese contingent in particular were said to be members of the notorious janjaweed, who spread slavery and destruction in the Darfur region of Sudan and now were doing the same in the Central African Republic. After 10 months of abuses by the largely Muslim Seleka fighters, Christian self-defense anti-Balaka militias formed and began to attack both Seleka fighters and Muslim communities, creating a dangerous dynamic of reprisals where once there had been ethnic and religious tolerance.

By the end of 2013 the number of displaced people in Central African Republic edged close to one-million [that is, about a quarter of the country's entire population], as insecurity and fighting continued. Armed Muslim and Christian groups continued to battle in the capital and elsewhere, but were also targeting civilians. Humanitarian agencies were having a difficult time reaching those in need. On January 03, 2014 UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch said the number of displaced people has risen sharply in recent weeks. “On 24th of December, we had 710,000 displaced in the country. Today that number has [risen] to over 935,000 people, who were displaced inside CAR,” he said.

Recent Developments - 2014

Central African Republic’s interim president, Michel Djotodia, resigned 10 January 2014 at the close of a two-day summit of regional leaders in Chad. The president's resignation came after an extraordinary call Thursday by the summit for the entire transitional parliament in Bangui to board a plane and fly to N'djamena. When they arrived they were summoned to intensive talks, which carried on until nearly 4 am. The talks were aimed at persuading the parliament, which included Djotodia supporters as well as opponents, to agree that he should step aside.

Djotodia, as well as the Prime Minister Nicholas Tiangaye had shown their limitations when it came to managing the transition, The two now former leaders had shown serious incompetence and a lack of capacity to handle the crisis and the transition successfully. Central African Republic's transitional parliament would choose another interim president to serve through national elections, which could possibly be held later in 2014. There were fears the Seleka rebels might try to force a breakaway or secession in northern parts of the country, where there is oil.

Catherine Samba-Panza, was elected 20 January 2014 interim president by members of the country’s transitional parliament. She represents a break with the past in more ways than one. Her main opponent was Desire Kolingba, the son of former president Andre Kolingba. That were 75 votes for Samba- Panza and 53 for Desire Kolingba. Samba-Panza was due to serve until national elections can be organized. The U.S. government has called for elections to be held by February 2015.

The African Union deployed about 5,000 peacekeepers to the country, assisted by a force of 1,600 from France. Paris announced 14 February 2014 it would temporarily increase its force by an additional 400 troops and police. The European Union, which had also pledged to send at least 500 troops to protect civilians in the CAR, had commitments for closer to 1,000 troops. It was becoming more likely that the United Nations would take over the African-led mission in the coming months, turning it into a full-fledged UN peacekeeping force. That would provide the troops with stable financing and more equipment, among other benefits.

The Council of the European Union announced the immediate launch of a military operation in the Central African Republic to help “achieve a safe and a secure environment” amid the escalating crisis, said the council’s order of 01 April 2014. European Union Force RCA, led by the French Major-General Philippe Ponties, will compromise up to 1,000 troops. They are to provide “temporary support in achieving a safe and secure environment in the area, with a view to handing over to a UN peacekeeping operation or to African partners.” The HQ and the troops will be located in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic and its largest city. The operational center will be located in Larissa, Greece. The troops are to be deployed rapidly to ensure "the immediate effect" of the operation. The mission is tasked with “protecting the populations most at risk and to the creation of the conditions for providing humanitarian aid.”

Many people in the Central African Republic welcomed Chad's 04 April 2014 decision to withdraw its troops from the African Union peacekeeping force in the country. Chad's involvement in the crisis had simply grown too controversial. Chadian troops kept being implicated in too many incidents hurting civilians and they were accused of abuses in the interior of the country. They were always accused of being pro-Muslim and that caused problems. In Bangui, it was not uncommon to hear people use the terms Chadian, Muslim and Seleka interchangeably. The announcement came amid public outrage after Chadian forces opened fire in Bangui's PK12 neighborhood on March 29. UN human rights investigators said that at least 30 people were killed and more than 300 injured. Chad's military was seen as one of the most capable in Africa. Chad contributed about 850 of the 6,000 soldiers in the AU peacekeeping force, known as MISCA.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed April 10, 2014 to authorize a nearly 12,000 strong UN peacekeeping force for the violence-plagued Central African Republic. The force, known by the acronym MINUSCA, will take over on September 15 from the 6,000-strong African-led mission currently on the ground. It would have 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police. The Africans and about 2,000 French forces had been trying to restore calm in the Central African Republic after inter-communal fighting erupted in December 2013. The African troops would continue their military activities in the lead-up to the official transfer date in September. After being vetted, many of those troops will also be "re-hatted" with the blue helmet of UN peacekeepers and join the new mission.

International troops are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Some question whether those troops could fight off a separatist attempt by armed groups in the northeast. Within Seleka there is a strong majority that wants partition. They feel they are no longer accepted, that the Ndjamena accords have not been applied and so there is no sharing of power. The Muslim population is also being persecuted. So there are people, in all legitimacy, calling for partition. But there are others who are against.

A peace agreement between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and the largely Christian anti-Balaka militia was signed in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville on 23 July 2014. But Seleka rebels rejected a ceasefire deal and demanded the country be partitioned between Muslims and Christians. In an interview with the BBC's Andrew Harding, Seleka military chief Joseph Zoundeiko said his forces would ignore the ceasefire agreed. Zoundeiko called for the entire country to be split in two, arguing that CAR as a nation state was finished.

Mahamat Kamoun, a former special adviser to interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, was appointed prime minister by presidential decree on 10 August 2014. He is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the CAR since it gained independence from France in 1960. He was director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize. Kamoun would lead a transitional government that is seeking to implement a cease-fire signed in July after a year of sectarian violence.

A United Nations peacekeeping force deployed 15 September 2014 in the Central African Republic, which has been devastated by more than two years of sectarian violence and civil war. Many hoped the UN troops would have a strong impact on economic development of this poor nation. The Security Council authorized the force, known as MINUSCA, to take all necessary means to carry out its mandate in the CAR. Only 7,500 of the approximately 12,000 men werenewly deployed. Most of the 6,000 African Union troops already in the CAR joined the new UN mission. For many in Bangui this means that the UN troops will not hesitate to use force against armed groups. CAR government spokesperson Gaston Mackouzangba said the arrival of well-equipped UN troops will be a deterrent for armed groups. “When you have 12,000 armed people, with better equipment than that of the CAR, that should be enough dissuade,” says Mackouzangba.

When Catherine Samba-Panza took the oath of office as President in January 2014, the International Crisis Group called CAR a phantom state... that it was not a even a fragile state anymore, but a phantom one, even a fictive one. A year later, some improvement has been made, but a lot of challenges remain. Security has improved, notably thanks to the deployment of international forces. Yet the situation remained very fragile with regular outbreaks of violence.

While violence occasionally flared, order was generally returned under interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who was backed by a UN peacekeeping force.

Recent Developments - 2015

The government of Central African Republic and 10 armed groups signed a peace deal May 10, 2015 aimed at ending two years of fighting that has killed thousands. UN Special Representative Babacar Gaye said, "I want to believe that the commitment is sincere and that we will engage in the construction of progressive peace."

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