Tag Archive | "Central Africa"

Renewed Violence in the Central African Republic Threatens Fragile Peace

Photo Credit: Global Risk Insights

Photo Credit: Global Risk Insights

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has reported renewed violence this week in the Central African Republic (CAR). On September 16th, after months of relative peace between predominantly Christian anti-Balaka supporters and predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels, 26 civilians were killed, a UN aid worker was injured, and UN humanitarian offices were looted. The violence occurred in and around Kaga Bandoro, a market town 330km North of the capital Bangui. A spokesperson for CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera said that members of the ex-Seleka rebel group “went door to door and killed their victims[,]” including the village chief, and described the execution style killings as “a massacre.”

This recent flare in violence comes after a summer of relative calm in the country, the first since the Seleka uprising began in 2012. Last week at the UN, President Touadera said that “the [CAR] has turned its back on past dark days,” and promised a brighter future based on a four-stage framework for change: peace and security; national reconciliation; economic recovery; and justice and human rights. National reconciliation is to be achieved through a newly established hybrid criminal justice mechanism, the Special Criminal Court (CPS), established to prosecute the Seleka and Anti-Balaka responsible for extreme violence. In this fragile region of the country, renewed violence could stall efforts of the CPS to achieve the second stage of President Touadera’s plan to bring reconciliation to the nation.

In 2012, when Seleka rebels began an assault on the government of President Francois Bozize, the security situation in the CAR began to rapidly devolve. In a matter of months, ethnic violence overcame the country, and the CAR fell into a deepening humanitarian and economic crisis compounded by violence and widespread human rights violations. Following the coup in early 2013, unintegrated Christian militias came together, united under the banner of Anti-Balaka, to resist the rebel power-grab. During the conflict Seleka and Anti-Balaka fighters became engaged in a cycle of tit-for-tat retributive revenge killings. Individuals from both sides are accused of targeting civilians, murder, rape, torture, enlisting child soldiers, destroying humanitarian missions, forcibly displacing civilians, engaging in widespread persecution, looting, and pillaging. In the case of Anti-Balaka, there are also accusations of ethnic cleansing. This conflict resulted an estimated one million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), the rapes of thousands of innocent women and girls, the destruction of humanitarian missions, and the death of thousands of civilians, many of them children.

In January 2014, in order to bring peace to a nation at war, the CAR government established the Transitionary National Council (TNC), approved a new constitution, and replaced coup leader Michael Djotodia with interim president Catherine Samba-Panza. In July 2014, through mediation by the TNC, Seleka and Anti-Balaka leaders signed a peace agreement which formally disbanded the Seleka alliance, and all groups were promised inclusion in the future government. These developments, however, failed to end the violence; ex-Seleka rebels who did not lay down arms, and Anti-Balaka militias, continued to commit grave atrocities throughout the country.

In April 2015, interim president Samba-Panza executed a law creating the CPS. The CPS was created to investigate and prosecute all those responsible for grave human rights violations in the country since former president Bozize took power in 2003. The CPS is the first ‘hybrid justice’ institution created through national legislation to prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities, and is seen as an inventive and transformative mechanism which possesses the potential to end the cycles of impunity-inspired violence in the CAR. Once the CPS is established it will exist as a special court within the domestic legal system of the CAR, will have a mandate of five years, will be located in Bangui, and will include both CAR citizens and other non-CAR citizens as staff and judiciary. The official mandate of the CPS is to conduct preliminary investigations and judicial examinations, in order to try “all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Central African Republic since 2003.” Despite progress, attacks against civilians remained “alarming and widespread” through early 2016. It was not until late Spring of 2016 when the pinnacle of violence finally passed.

The ultimate success of the CPS in changing the trajectory of the CAR is likely to be determined by specific organizational factors of the court which have yet to be legislated, and future unpredictable events in the country. The CPS is, however, a hybrid justice mechanism like none other before, and is the country’s best chance to end the vicious cycle of impunity for mass atrocities which has plagued it since independence. While President Touadera seeks only brighter days ahead, he also recognizes that despite progress “the situation is a fragile one” and that the CAR “absolutely needs the support of its bilateral and regional partners.” If recent violence in Kaga Bandoro is an indication of, or may become a catalyst for, renewed violence elsewhere in the country there is a risk that it could derail progress towards national reconciliation. MINUSCA is now reinforcing positions in and around Kaga Bandoro and  stepping up patrols to protect civilians, and will continue its mandate in the CAR in order to prevent further violence.

Jeremy S Goldstein is a 4L J.D. Candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in Denver, Colorado USA; Senior Managing Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Central African Republic Sees International Intervention

On December 5th, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized the deployment of French troops and the African Union Mission in Central Africa (MISCA) with the hopes of stemming the sectarian violence that is plaguing the Central African Republic.  On the 9th, the 1,600 French troops will attempt to begin disarming the fighting groups and restore order.  French Defense Minister is quoted saying that “first we’ll ask nicely, and if they don’t react, we’ll do it by force.” The Security Council also made it clear that the UN should be prepared to further bolster efforts in the CAR.  Provisions included requests that the Secretary-General undertake contingency preparations for the transformation of MISCA into a peacekeeping operation within three months.

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French troops will begin efforts to restore order to the Central African Republic caused by violent Seleka rebel fighters. Image: AFP

In March of 2013, the existing government was ousted by the Seleka rebels when they seized the capital and leadership.  Since that time attacks on Christians and those loyal to the former Bozize regime by the predominantly Muslim Seleka forces have increased in number.  In response, self-defense groups known as “anti-balaka” have formed and perpetrated retaliatory violence.  Consequently, an environment of fear prevails throughout the CAR and the populace is divided along religious lines.  In the day preceding the passage of the UNSC resolution, more than 100 were killed in the capital of Bangui alone.  According to the Red Cross, an additional 394 were killed on the following Sunday.

Atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict rise to the level of war crimes according to investigators from the UN and Human Rights Watch. The problems confronted by the Central African Republic are compounded by the absence of stability and central governance.  The African Union Mission MISCA and the potential for an expanded UN peacekeeping mission are directed at building local capacity.  The United States has made a $40 million dollar financial contribution to MISCA because of this concern specifically as seen in a statement from US Secretary of State John Kerry, “The United States sees no evidence that the CAR transitional government has the capacity or political will to end the violence, especially the abuses committed by elements of the Seleka rebel alliance that are affiliated with the government.”

The coming weeks and possibly months will demonstrate whether the French forces can help bring stability to the CAR.  Some of the problems confronted by peacekeepers will be dealing with the religious tensions, the potential for trafficking in conflict minerals, and trying to neutralize largely de-centralized fighting forces.  The UNSC asked that all States take measures to prevent the sale or transfer of weapons, supplies, and funding to fighting groups in the CAR.  Regardless of what manifests in the future for the Central African Republic, a clear international mandate has been expressed with the hopes of restoring order, stopping the ongoing violence, and preventing future conflicts.

Jordan Edmondson is a 2L and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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