The Central African Republic is on the brink of disaster. The conflict has a dense history, for violence initially erupted in the Central African Republic in December 2012 when a predominantly Muslim rebel militia, the Seleka, stormed across the country and captured the capital city, Bangui. The Seleka took over the capital and proceeded to organize killing and looting against the country’s non-Muslim population. A group called the Anti-Balaka rose up in opposition to Seleka, and the violence grew more intense. Gold, uranium, and diamonds are also being used to fiance the conflict.

The conflict has dire humanitarian consequences, for both the Anti-Balaka and the Seleka fail to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. There are currently more than 4.6 million people in need humanitarian aid, 440,000 people are displaced, and nearly half a million have fled to neighboring countries. The situation remains highly volatile and is in danger of exploding into further mass atrocities, even genocide, with the approach of elections. A U.N. commission of inquiry recently described the situation in Central African Republic as ethnic cleansing due to the violence perpetrated against the Muslim population. In addition, Human Rights Watch called on the international community to focus on the plight of northern Muslims in December 2014. Sectarian violence has been turned into ethno-religious conflict.

The Central African Republic has been relatively calm over the past year. During the summer of 2015, the country will hold democratic elections to begin to rebuild the government of the country. This is an opportunity for peacebuilders to make a lasting impact on CAR society. An interim president was initiated in January 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza, however the security situation remains unstable. In February 2015, peacekeepers killed at least seven rebels in clashes north-east of the capital, Bangui.

According the United Nations Development Program, parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled for July and August. Sixty percent of the required funding has been made available, and voter registration is set to begin shortly. The desire for a stable future, rather than prolonged transition, has fomented domestic support for the elections. This will one of the more involved peace operations, for the United Nations Development Program is not only assisting with elections, but is also rebuilding the national army and police force. The stability of the Central African Republic is truly vital for the security of its citizens, and for the region as a whole.

A successful election in the Central African Republic requires several ingredients. All the groups in the conflict must be present, otherwise the environment will remain volatile. Until this becomes true, groups and individuals are at risk, as evidenced by recent kidnappings of government officials and aid workers. The Forum for National Reconciliation aims to bring together civil servants, government workers, and local populations in order to secure a peaceful election in the area. Through persistence, patience, and partnership, the elections in Central African Republic may be the next example of a positive peace operation!

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Africa Research Institute, The Guardian, Insight on Conflict
Photo: Flickr

Since President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) was ousted by a coalition of fighters by the name of Seleka in March of 2013, the nation has devolved into anarchy.  Seleka leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president after the fall of Bozize’s government, but he has little control over his Seleka fighters.

The Seleka is a predominately Muslim, rebel coalition made up of several militia factions from the CAR’s civil war.  The Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, the Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country, the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity as well as other anti-government groups formed the alliance in mid-2012.

Djotodia cut ties with the group after they were blamed for attacks across the CAR.  In an interview with Al-Jazeera in early September, he admitted the Seleka no longer obey his orders.

On October 26, 2013, the Seleka forces of the CAR took part in a massacre a few miles outside Bouar, killing 18 people.  At least 10 people were killed at Bangui’s Amitie hospital after Seleka troops attacked patients.  Executions, rapes and burglaries by Seleka troops in predominately Christian areas have been reported.

A Christian militia called anti-balaka was formed to fight back against the Muslim Seleka.  The United Nations has expressed concern that the CAR situation may develop into a genocide given the historical tension between Christians and Muslims in the area.  With no legitimate governing body or police force there is a great risk of increased violence between the two groups.

As violence has escalated, President Francoise Hollande of France visited the country to evaluate the conflict.  So far, France has deployed 1,600 peacekeeping troops to the CAR with plans to send up to 6,000 if the fighting continues.

The African Union has sent 2,500 troops and plans to send more in the coming weeks. The U.N. has authorized foreign intervention using “all necessary measures” to support the efforts of the African Union and France.  The troops have been monitoring travel in and out of major towns, checking homes for weapons, and policing neighborhoods in an attempt to mitigate violence.

The United States has promised to donate $100 million in aid to the African Union’s efforts.  Al Jazeera reported that the funding will go to training, logistical operations, planning and non-lethal equipment.  State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf says “The United States remains deeply concerned about the horrific violence committed by the armed groups against innocent civilians.”

President Djotodia released a statement saying he will consider granting amnesty for the militia members in exchange for a ceasefire between the two groups.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America