In recent months, the Central African Republic has plunged back into a spiral of inter-religious violence, destabilizing the climate of apparent order that President Faustin-Archange Touadera had succeeded in establishing after his election in February 2016.
At least 45 civilians and 11,000 others were displaced in the last three months, following attacks by armed groups against the population in Ouaka province, on the border between Muslim-majority North and Christian-majority South.
Human Rights Watch is denouncing this situation, after in the first days of last April collected direct testimonies of 20 people fled fighting that were in process at Bambari, capital of the Ouaka province, which has experienced many violence in the ‘last year.
Witnesses provided the names and details of the 45 civilians (17 men, 13 women and 15 children) killed by armed groups. However, most likely the total number of victims is higher, because dozens of people no longer have news.
The new wave of violence broke out at the end of 2016 in the country’s central provinces between two factions belonging to the mainly Muslim ex-rebels Seleka.
The first is the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (Union pour la paix en Centrafrique – UPC), a group consisting mainly of Peul ethnicity and arising from the division of the Popular Front for Redress (Front populaire pour le redressement, FPR), a group of Chadian rebels led by Abdel Kader Baba-Laddé. At the head of the FPR now there is Ali Darassa Mahamant, who after joining Seleka, created the UPC in September 2014.
The other camp of violence is the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic (Front populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique – FPRC), headed by former Seleka, Michel Djotodia and Noureddine Adam. The FRPC is aligned with the anti-Balaka, the main active armed group in the country, a once adventurous opponent of Seleka and composed predominantly by Christian-animist militias. The name of the group comes from antiballes-AK, referring to the belief that the grigis, the traditional amulets that its fighters wear give immunity to the AK-47 bullets.
According to Lewis Mudge, HRW’s Africa researcher “While factions are fighting power in Bangui, civilians are exposed to mortal attacks caused by cyclical reprisals by armed groups.”
Attacks persist despite the peacekeeping force in the country, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), has in the past three months deployed about one thousand of its 12,870 officers in the Ouaka province.
The escalation of violence in the area highlights the urgency of operating the Special Criminal Court, a “hybrid” court set up in June 2015, consisting of national and international judges and staff, with the task of prosecuting people suspected of having committed warcrimes during the conflict.
On February 15, the president Touadera appointed Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa of the Democratic Republic of Congo as special prosecutor of the new court, an important step. However, there are still questions as to the national ownership of the court and the extent to which this tribunal is a priority.
In the Central African Republic, thousands of victims of human rights violations are still awaiting justice, while those responsible for murders, torture and rape continue to walk around in the country. All this entails a disconcerting impunity, which undermines attempts to rebuild the country and establish lasting peace.
The former French colony, one of the poorest countries in the world, despite the uranium, gold and diamond reserves, was plunged into chaos at the end of 2012, when the ex-rebels Selekabegan attacking towns and villages, before removing President Francois Bozizé and take power in March 2013.
The violent response of anti-Balaka militias led the country to a real civil war that the intervention of the French mission Sangaris, which last January with drew the country, the African Union and the MUSIC have only limited.
The Central African Republic, since 1979, the year of removal by the French of the bloody self-proclaimed emperor Jéan-Bedel Bokassa, was the scene of five coups and repeated popular rebellions.
The disastrous management of successive governments has produced serious social instability and the complete dissolution of industrial base. For this reason, the roots of the current crisis, rather than religious differences, should be sought in inadequate macroeconomic programmes.
Policies that, in the background of a decomposing state, have failed to secure decent living conditions for Central Africans, leaving the open road to armed groups that have destabilized the country.