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CAR - Developments - 2018

The 2017/18 period witnessed an increasingly complex security environment caused by increasing competition among armed groups for the control of territory and the activities of criminal gangs. Armed clashes increased by 12 percent during the period, with a rise in violent confrontations between armed group in the west, centre and south-east. In the center and west of the country, clashes arose as armed actors sought control over lucrative natural resources, transhumance routes and border corridors. In the south-east, confrontations continued between the Union pour la paix en Centrafrique and local self-defence groups. In Bangui, the relative stability of the city was disrupted following clashes between rival gangs in the citys third district in April 2018. Since the clashes in April, armed group leaders spread narratives linked to identity to rally and unify their members.

MINUSCA increasingly became a target for armed group actors, as a result of which 10 peacekeepers were killed during the reporting period. This intensification in violence in the country resulted in an increased number of internally displaced people and refugees, aggravating the humanitarian crisis and preventing the Mission from fully delivering on its planned outputs.

A new MINUSCA Mission-wide strategy for the protection of civilians, adopted in April 2018, introduced measures to enhance the ability of the Mission to prevent threats to civilians from emerging, and to respond more proactively when they arise, with a focus on areas of the highest risk of threat to civilians. This included the launch of a series of proactive operations to reduce the threat to the protection of civilians from armed groups and the adoption of an enhanced robust posture in coordination with the efforts of the field offices to create opportunities for dialogue and to establish local level peace agreements as outlined in the Missions political strategy.

MINUSCA conducted sensitization campaigns and training sessions for local leaders and civil society representatives to promote a culture of peace and advocated for the involvement of youth and women groups in the national peace process. These activities created a vast network, across all 16 prefectures in the country, of approximately 2,100 civilians who contribute information to early warning systems. These efforts, along with an increased use of unmanned aerial systems, have enhanced the Missions situational awareness, access to information and ability to respond to emerging threats and with an integrated approach.

The number of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law rose, and serious violations of human rights continued to be perpetrated by armed groups, splinter factions, criminal gangs and the national security and defence forces. These included continued attacks on civili ans, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. As a result, the overall number of displaced people reached unprecedented levels, with 653,900 people remaining internally displaced and another 577,800 people who had become refugees in neighboring countries as at the end of May 2018.

There was continued progress in both national and local peace and political processes during the 2017/18 period. The African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation made sustained progress, with participation from all 14 recognized armed groups and the support of regional actors, aided by other bilateral efforts aimed at finding enduring solutions to the conflict. This progress was complemented through local peace agreements, community dialogue sessions, conflict mitigation and resolution mechanisms and other peace structures that were successful in creating viability for the restoration of State authority, increasing peaceful coexistence and freedom of movement and reducing violence in targeted communities in the near term.

Dialogue also continued with parties to the conflict to prevent and address grave violations of the rights of children. Despite these gains, violence against civilians persists in many regions, and the Mission continued to support calls for armed groups to resolve grievances through political channels, including through military and police operations, when necessary.

Security sector reform also took important steps forward, with MINUSCA providing technical support, advice and guidance to national security reform actors. In this regard: (a) several new policies, plans and laws were drafted and implemented by the Government, laying the foundation for a representative and professional security sector; (b) 500 new members of the internal security forces were recruited, vetted and commenced training; and (c) support was provided to security and defence forces to improve their capacity for the management of weapons and ammunition stockpiles.

In coordination with MINUSCA, and within the framework of the restoration of State authority, the first detachments of the armed forces of the Central African Republic to receive training from the European Union Military Training Mission were deployed at several locations outside of Bangui. The forces demonstrated an encouraging degree of transparency, discipline and cooperation with MINUSCA.

In addition, although a national disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process did not evolve, MINUSCA supported the launch by the Government of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration pilot project, including the pursuance of bilateral agreements with armed groups, and the implementation of community violence reduction programmes, in collaboration with United Nations country team members. These achievements were effective in reducing intercommunal violence in target locations across the Central African Republic.

The rule of law and the protection of civilians were also strengthened through support to restore State authority throughout the country and by building the capacity of the judiciary and penitentiary systems, including those outside Bangui, over the long term. MINUSCA supported the reopening and operationalization of courts and prisons across the country as well as the training of magistrates and law clerks in order to build their capacity to uphold national and international legal systems.

The Mission also supported the organization of criminal court sessions in Bangui and Bouar for crimes punishable by more than 10 years in prison. More broadly, the Mission continued to support the implementation by the Government of its national plan for the restoration of State authority, in coordination with the United Nations country team. Support from MINUSCA brings together military action and national and local peace initiatives to create conditions that allow for the progressive deployment and effective functioning of legitimate State authority.

Overall success and gains were achieved despite a deteriorating security environment characterized by growing criminality, which limited the ability of MINUSCA to fully deliver on its planned outputs and to meet expected accomplishments in key areas. Armed groups and criminal gangs increasingly clashed over control of territory, natural resources, cattle markets and transhumance routes, resulting in threats to the safety of the local population.

This observed upsurge in violence, as well as the continued and prevalent sectarian rhetoric, undermined trust in the Government and polarized national politics, hampering peace and political processes. This insecurity also led to an increased number of threats to civilians, which worsened the humanitarian situation in the country and led to an upsurge in the number of internally displaced people and refugees. In addition to the escalated fighting over territory, armed groups and criminal gangs increasingly targeted MINUSCA and humanitarian personnel during the reporting period.

There was a significant change in the nature of the insecurity in the country since the previous reporting period: the threat of ethnic cleansing, civil war or a coup was largely contained, and the violence was driven by criminality and fighting between armed factions, which, while it posed a threat to civilians and United Nations personnel, did not pose a significant danger to the national political system or to national institutions.

The deteriorating security environment was the impetus for the Missions focus on core peacekeeping activities, notably the protection of civilians, as well as the protection of United Nations personnel, and a number of planned outputs and resources were reprioritized in this regard. The Mission refocused its attention on the prevention of threats through additional patrols and more proactive operations, including along high-risk transhumance routes. MINUSCA enhanced its intelligence gathering and early warning systems by establishing a Mission-wide intelligence coordination mechanism to allow for better identification of emerging threats, as well as better responses.

The deterioration in the security situation and the resurgence of sectarian rhetoric and intercommunal strife during the period posed challenges to the resolution of the political situation in the country. It undermined popular trust in the State and in the defence and security forces, and it polarized national politics. Despite this, key State institutions continued to function, including the National Assembly, and the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic continued to move forward. The African Initiative completed its second round of consultations with the 14 recognized armed groups during the months of February and April 2018, during which time the armed groups presented their demands and proposals.

The CAR has been suffering from sectarian clashes between the Muslims and the Christians since the 2013 coup, when the Muslim Seleka rebels seized control of the nation, overthrowing then-President Francois Bozize and provoking a backlash from the Christian Anti-Balaka militia. In August 2018, the two groups agreed to establish a platform for consultations on sustainable peace in the CAR. The groups then also called on the government to engage in the work on reconciliation with support from Russia, the European Union and other regional and international players.

Since October 31st, fighting between armed groups in Batangafo, in the Northern part of Central African Republic, has led to displacement of nearly 25,000 people and affected 37,000 persons. Most of the affected populations are families who were already displaced and living in straw huts in settlements in the city center of Batangafo. All of these were burnt to the ground. Around 12,000 people sought refuge at the town hospital supported by another INGO and others have gone to the outskirts of Batangafo to hide in the bush. As a result, thousands of men, women and children are currently sleeping outdoors on the ground, eating only one meal a day and lacking access to drinking water.

After more than 40 people were killed in a rebel attack on a displaced persons camp in November 2018, both the leader of the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission and the country's prime minister acknowledged there had been shortcomings in the response. "I knew that we did not have all the necessary means to protect our people," Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji said at the time.

A former militia leader from the Central African Republic appeared 23 November 2018 at the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. Alfred Yekatom, also known as Rambo, said he was tortured before being sent to The Hague. Prosecutors at the court claim that 43-year-old Yekatom, also known by the nickname Rambo or Colonel Rambo, is responsible for crimes that include murder, torture, mutilation and the use of child soldiers. Yekatom was extradited to The Hague after his initial detention by local forces in the CAR. The crimes he is charged with took place between December 2013 and August 2014, as a civil war raged in the Central African Republic (CAR). Yekatom led the mainly Christian anti-Balaka group, which fought Seleka.

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Page last modified: 03-02-2019 19:04:13 ZULU