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Central African Republic - C.A.R.

CAR is less a country than a collection of fiefdoms, ruled by gang-like armed groups, where religious, military, political and ethnic factions struggle for anything that might yield revenue. It’s a state “that has long ceased to exist,” the International Crisis Group said in 2014. Central African Republic became a country whose borders exist only on maps, where governmental authority is limited mostly to the 25 square miles occupied by the capital, Bangui, if that.

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 Central African Republic (CAR) faced a situation of insecurity in the North-West, the North-East and the Centre of the country. Banditry and armed political movements are the main sources of internal insecurity. Incursions by armed groups from neighbouring countries, who use the Central African territory as back base or as corridors, also contribute to the number of violent acts committed to the Central African territory.

In the North-West and the Centre of the country, insecurity was caused by activities by rebels, extremely violent road blockers (zaraguinas), often originating from neighbouring countries, and by the response given by security forces. Two groups were active in the North-West and Centre: the APRD and the FDPC. The North-East of the country is partly controlled by combatants from the rebel UFDR. In that zone of the country, violence is currently contained by the presence of international missions of the EUFOR and MINURCAT. Throughout the territory, the zaraguinas also represent a security threat to the populations.

The global peace accord signed in Libreville, Gabon, on 21 June 2008, by the Government and two of the three principal politico-military movements, was symbolic for the re-launch of a dynamic toward stabilization. For the first time in decades, the people of the Central African Republic had reasons to be hopeful again. Over the past two years, the government and the main rebel groups had signed peace deals, culminating in the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement in May 2008. This agreement was followed by the holding of an Inclusive Political Dialogue in December 2008, qualified by the UN Secretary-General as “perhaps the most genuinely inclusive attempt to foster national reconciliation in CAR to date”. The resolutions of this broad reconciliation forum contain provisions conducive to durable peace, stability and development. These include the establishment of a national union government, the disarmament of former rebels, and the preparations for presidential and legislative elections scheduled in 2010. 

By November 2011 the well-equipped Front populaire pour le redressement, a Chadian militia led by Baba Laddé, constituted the main security threat. Negotiations between Baba Laddé and the Governments of the Central African Republic and Chad regarding his repatriation to Chad had not yielded any results and Baba Laddé recruited new fighters, both national and foreign elements belonging to different ethnic groups, in the Central African Republic. The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) also constituted a threat to the population, especially in the south-east, although the Central African Republic authorities claimed that its nuisance capacity has been reduced. The African Union strategy to eradicate LRA had yet to be implemented.

By January 2014 the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) had greatly deteriorated. Approximately 2.2 million people in the CAR needed humanitarian assistance: close to half of the population of the country. One in every two inhabitants of Bangui has sought refuge outside their homes. Their number was estimated at approximately 513,000, of whom 100,000 are at a makeshift camp at the airport.

Killings in Bangui and in the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation. Access to residential neighborhoods in Bangui is controlled either by “anti-Christian” or “anti-Muslim” checkpoints, manned by armed civilians. Similary, localities outside Bangui like Bossangoa, Bouar, Bozoum and Paoua, amongst others, witness atrocities on a daily basis, including direct clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities.

Several countries, including Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal repatriated tens of thousands of their citizens, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. This is the first time in the history of the CAR that people on account of their religion have felt obliged to leave the country for fear for their lives.

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 principles for national reconciliation and reform were agreed upon at the Bangui Forum in May 2015 and are stated in the Republican Pact for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reconstruction, as well as agreements on the principles for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation, justice and reconciliation, and security sector reform.

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