Central African Republic Background Note

02/02/2015

Key Statistics

Location: Landlocked country, Central Africa

Population: 5.181 million (IMF 2019 )

Capital: Bangui

Area: 623,000 km2 (WB 2018 )

Mineral wealth: Gold, diamonds, other minerals

Local authorities: 1 autonomous commune (Bangui) and 16 prefectures comprised of 71 sub-prefectures and 167 communes (OCHA 2019 )

Official Languages: French, Sango

Major Ethnic Groups: Baya, Banda, Mandjia, Sara, Mboum, M'Baka, Yakoma and others

Constitution: Constitution of the Central African Republic, 27/03/2016

Political system: presidential republic

GDP Growth rate: 4.3% (WB 2018 )

GDP per capita: 510 USD (WB 2018 )

Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty line: 62% (WB 2008 )

Literacy rate adult age 15 and above: male 55.55% and female 17.26% (UNESCO 2010 )

External Debt: 731,000,000 USD (WB 2017 )

Other relevant indices

Ibrahim Index for African Governance: 50/54 (Mo Ibrahim Foundation  2018 )

Freedom House Index: Not free (Freedom House Index 2019 )

Corruption Index: 149/180 (Transparency International 2018 )

Human Development Index:  0.367 (UNDP 2018 )

Table of Contents

1- Introduction and General Background

2- Historical Overview

3- Current Political Context and Governance System

4- Overview of the Security Sector

5- Security Sector Reform  

List of acronyms

1- Introduction and General Background

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country located in central Africa. The population is composed of over 80 ethnic communities and 3 major religions.

The CAR possesses an abundance of water, agriculture and mineral resources – including uranium reserves, crude oil, gold, and diamonds – lumber, and hydro-power, in addition to considerable arable land. Despite this, the CAR is considered one of the least developed countries in the world, scoring 188 out of 189 countries in the 2018 Human Development Index.

Mismanagement of funds and corruption have been largely responsible for the stagnant and weak economy, which has proven incapable of providing basic services for the population. Regional instability throughout central Africa, coupled with internally weak government institutions and a legacy of military control have perpetuated the cycle of violence in the CAR.

2- Historical Overview

Since its independence from France in 1960, CAR’s history is characterized by repetitive coups and autocratic rule. Multiparty elections held in 1993 ended a period of almost 30 years of turbulence. The elections were won by Ange Felix Patassé, a civilian political figure supported by Chad.

During Patassé’s presidency (1993-2003), the CAR underwent economic collapse, losing what was left of its institutional capacity to provide social services for its citizens, and increased its dependence on external aid. In addition, Patassé built up the Presidential Guard (GP), further ethnicising the state security forces and contributing to mounting political and ethnic tensions throughout the 1990s. (International Crisis Group 2014)

Following a first mediation attempt by Gabon, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali the inter-African force in the Central African Republic (MISAB) was deployed in February 1997 before being replaced in 1998 by the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) and by the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) after 2000. (UN 2001)

On March 15, 2003, General François Bozizé overthrew Patassé in an externally backed coup, dissolving the parliament and setting up a transitional government. The capital, Bangui, initially fell into chaos as the new Chadian and Sudanese forces extracted payments through widespread looting of civilians. During this period, the GP committed extensive acts of brutality in the north-west, resulting in the displacement of over 100,000 people. The government did little to punish these acts, cementing a culture of impunity while the legitimate use of force melted away.

Following the 2005 elections, which saw Bozizé re-elected, internal violence intensified and spread throughout the CAR, in addition to the regional instability that pervaded central Africa, prompted the international community to intervene more aggressively. By 2010, several peace agreements were signed between the government and three of the major rebel groups, setting the need for inclusive political dialogue and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). The CAR also hosted its first national seminar on security sector reform (SSR). While these developments instilled a new sense of optimism towards security and institutional reform, there were no serious efforts with regards to implementation. 

By 2012, several Muslim-led rebel groups, primarily from the marginalised North East, formed a coalition called the Seleka, launching a military campaign and successfully overthrowing Bozizé on March 23, 2013. Michel Djotodia, former rebel leader of L’Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement (UFDR), declared himself President. This prompted most of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) to flee and triggered complete institutional collapse of the security sector, facilitating widespread attacks, including rapes, lootings, and killings of civilians and the destruction of entire villages.

Despite dissolving the Seleka coalition, Djotodia was unable to control the fighters. Brutal attacks were frequent, especially in the Christian North-West area, which was perceived as Bozizé’s stronghold. In turn, a predominantly Christian-led North-Western militia known as the anti-balakas emerged and targeted Muslim communities, bringing additional religious and intercommunal dimensions to the conflict and further intensifying the violence. Heavily criticized for failing to pacify the country, Djotodia resigned in January 2014 and was replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza.

To respond to the situation, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) saw its mandate updated to include the implementation of the transition process; the support to conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance; the stabilisation of the security situation and the protection of human rights, among others (UN Security Council resolution 2121) and in December 2013, the Security Council authorized the deployment of an AU International Support Mission to the CAR (MISCA) (UN Security Council resolution 2127), integrated in April 2014 into the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) (UN Security Council resolution 2149).

3- Current Political Context and Governance System

Despite ongoing efforts from the national authorities and international partners, the security situation in the CAR has remained volatile. While the intensity of the conflict has decrease overall, peaks of violence are still observed, resulting from clashes between armed groups, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and inter-communal tensions. As a result, as of June 2019, some 605,000 civilians had fled to neighbouring countries while more than 610,000 remained internally displaced (UNHCR 2019, OCHA 2019). An estimated 2.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance (OCHA 2018).

3.1 The Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation of 2015

In order to address the longstanding grievances and drivers of fragility at the root of the conflict, a nation-wide consultation process was launched and culminated in the 2015 Bangui National Forum. Building on the results of the 2014 Brazzaville Forum[1], the Bangui Forum aimed to be an open space for reflexion and concertation to build a new social contract in the Central African Republic and to come up with comprehensive and durable solutions to the conflict. Four key areas were identified, analysed and debated: 

Peace and security

Justice and reconciliation

Governance

Social and economic development

The Bangui Forum resulted in the adoption of a Republican Pact for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reconstruction. The key aspects of the agreement were:

- The adoption of a new constitution that would include the prohibition of amnesty for crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of genocide, the creation oversights institutions to guarantee the transparency of resources management and good governance, among others.

- The decentralisation of the state and the re-deployment of the administration and public services throughout the national territory.

- The effective creation of a Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRRC) and the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms.

- The immediate implementation of the DDR agreement and the engagement towards an inclusive SSR process including the armed forces, police, gendarmerie and justice sector.

3.2 Ending the transition period

a. The adoption of a new Constitution

On 13 December 2015, a referendum was organized for the adoption of a new Constitution, opening the way to presidential and legislative elections.

The new Constitution adopted in 2016 reaffirms the sovereignty and unity of the State (Title II). It establishes the division of power between the executive (Title III), the legislative (Title IV) and the judicial (Title VII), and institute a High Authority responsible for Good Governance (Title XIV).

b. The 2015 and 2016 elections

Following almost two years of transition and the adoption of the new constitution, the CAR held presidential and parliamentary elections between December 2015 and March 2016. Despite initial delays, continuing insecurity on the ground, fear over the risk of electoral violence and widespread irregularities, the elections were relatively peaceful[2].

3.3 Development since the end of the transition

a. The AU Mediation and the Khartoum Peace Agreement

On 6 February 2019, a new peace deal was signed in Bangui between the government of the Central African Republic and the representatives of 14 armed groups. Presented as a turning point for the country, this new deal follows several previous peace deals brokered between the government and the armed groups, since 2007 including:

- The 2008 Global Peace Agreement signed in Libreville, Gabon, which led to the organisation of an Inclusive Political dialogue. The implementation of a DDR process was among the main recommendations.  

- In 2013, a second peace agreement was signed in Libreville with the Seleka. Only two months after, Bozizé was overthrown by Djotodia.

- A ninth peace deal was signed following the Brazzaville Forum in 2014. The agreement, signed by Transition President Catherine Samba-Panza and leaders of the ex-Seleka and anti-balaka armed groups, should have guaranteed the confinement of the armed groups and restored the government’s access to the entire national territory.

- In 2017, another political agreement was signed between the government and the main armed groups. The Sant ‘Egidio Agreement aimed at setting the ground for DDRR and SSR processes and the creation of a  Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

This peace deal, formally called “Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic” (the Agreement) is the result of an African Union (AU) initiative, supported by the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (CIRGL), building up on the Roadmap for Peace and National Reconciliation in the CAR adopted in July 2017. Among other key objectives and principles, the Roadmap insists on the fact that impunity for grave human rights and humanitarian principals violations would go against a durable and sustainable peace process, thus closing the door to any demand of amnesty as a condition to peace.

The Agreement is organised a follow:

- A list of general commitments from the Government and the armed groups.

- A chapter on specific issues, including DDRR, justice and transitional security measures, among others.

- A set of commitments for the region and the international community.

- A set of measures to ensure the implementation and monitoring of the Agreement.

b. Main points of contention

Immunity and amnesty

Despite rejecting any idea of impunity and planning for the effective implementation of the Commission on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation, the Agreement remains vague on how justice for crimes committed since the beginning of the conflict should be rendered. The Agreement also states that “the President of the Republic, in order to sustain the momentum towards reconciliation, may exercise his discretionary power of pardon ” (Article 13).

According to a polling survey from May 2019, justice is seen as a necessary condition for the consolidation of peace by over 57% of the population and the imprisonment of those responsible for the conflict by 55%. Furthermore, 61% of the population has expressed a refusal of any form of amnesty; a rate that increased by 6 points compared to 2017 showing a growing rejection of impunity in the country.

However, the armed groups are opposed to the implementation of “hard” justice mechanisms, especially imprisonment, favouring transitional justice mechanisms. 

Political power sharing

Early March 2019, a first “inclusive government” was formed. 6 of the 14 signatories armed groups were represented in this new government. However, none of the main ministries were attributed to representatives of the armed groups. Very quickly, 5 of the armed groups denounced this new government, including 3 of the key actors in the CAR security landscape: the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), the Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC) and Patriotic Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic (FPRC).

A second cabinet reshuffle led to the inclusion of 4 new armed group leaders in the government, without fully managing to lull the tensions. For example, Abdoulaye Miskine, leader of the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), was appointed Minister for the Modernisation of the Public Administration, but declined to join the government and has since demanded the demission of the President Touadera[3].

Furthermore, tensions between the armed groups are still running high. Despite the inclusion in the Agreement of engagement from the groups to “renounce the recourse to weapons and violence as a means of making any claim ” and to “participate fully in the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process ”, confrontation between the groups are still taking place, causing death and displacement among the civilian population[4].

4- Overview of the Security Sector

4.1 Internal structure

a. Security Forces

The defence sector has often been regarded as the major source of instability and the primary area in need of reform. Historically, security and defence forces have been used as a tool by elites and the politicians as opposed to being a mean of safeguarding civilians. Members of the FACA and Internal Security Forces continue to commit human rights violations, encouraged partly by widespread impunity and lack of oversight[5].

Defence

Poorly equipped, improperly trained, and unmotivated, the armed forces were incapable of preventing and stopping the rebel forces from causing chaos in the CAR in 2013, further highlighting their inability to protect citizens inside and, especially, outside the capital. Both the FACA and the Presidential Guard, who have historically been rival forces, have engaged in violent clashes and committed widespread human rights violations.

The 2013 coup resulted in the institutional collapse of the FACA; its forces were overwhelmed and forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Only 10% of the FACA returned after the coup, and many joined the Anti-Balaka, leaving the country without an operational defence force. 

While Peace, reconciliation and security were perceived as the top priority by 77% of the households interviewed during the Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment conducted in 2016, the improvement of the security via reforming the security forces, and especially the FACA, was highlighted as a key aspect to reaching that goal.

According to the Report of the Secretary General, as of 1 June 2019, the Central African armed forces (FACA) were made of around 7,000 soldiers, 1,438 of whom were deployed outside Bangui. Around 1070 of them were trained by the European Union Training Mission (EUTM-RCA) and Russian military experts before being deployed alongside the MINUSCA. Those numbers also show limited progress regarding the redeployment of the FACA throughout the national territory compared to the beginning of the year: since January, only 80 new soldiers have been deployed outside Bangui. Another 1,000 recruits were selected in 2019 and are now in the training stage. Once the new recruits join the rank, the CAR will have a ratio of 170 soldiers for 100,000 habitants (1 soldier for 588 people).

The defence architecture should also be completed by the creation of Mixed Special Security Units (USMS), integrated by members of the regular forces and of the signatory armed groups. Those units, once operational, will be mainly dedicated to strengthening security along transhumance corridors and at mining sites. The first USMS, composed of members of the FACA and of 253 members of the armed groups (mainly FDPC, 3R and other anti-balaka groups) was officially launched in October 2019 in Bouar.

Internal Security

The National Police, who falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior, has historically suffered from weak institutional capacity. Poorly equipped, underpaid, aged, concentrated in Bangui, and regarded as untrustworthy by the population due to accusations of human rights abuses and corruption, the National Police has been unable to play a stabilisation role. Those long-existing shortfalls have been identified in the National SSR Strategy.

Following the 2013 crisis the Gendarmerie has been put under the management of the Ministry of Interior (formerly under the Ministry of Defence), in order to build better synergies between their work and that of the National Police. In comparison to the other state statutory forces, the Gendarmerie has been the most constant in size and the least in need of reform. Despite this, issues such as ethnic recruitment, aging personnel and insufficient equipment still plague the force.

Key issues:

- Lack of personal: According to the Report of the Secretary General, as of 1 June 2019, the interior security forces (police and gendarmerie) were made of 3,686 officers, including 1,024 deployed outside Bangui. This represents a ratio of 78 police or gendarmerie officers for 100,000 habitants (1 officer for 1,275 people). This is far below the UN recommended police – public ratio of 1:450.

- Lack of budget: In 2019, the Ministry of Interior was assigned 3,7% of the overall budget (around 16.1 million USD). The budget planned for around 1.5 million USD to be dedicated to investments such as the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of infrastructure or the procurement of new vehicles. Around 1 million USD was dedicated to the police training academy.

b. Justice

During the conflict, the pattern of mutinies, defections and rebellions has led to a breakdown of law and order, leaving the justice sector operating under severe constraints, which were aggravated by the ransacking, burning of documents, and occupation and destruction of premises by the armed groups.

Capacities of the judicial institutions remain limited to this day, with only 18 of 27 first instance and appellate courts operating between January and June 2019, according to the Report of the Secretary General. There are less than 182 judges in the country (1 judge for 26,000 people), a ration too low to respond to justice needs[6].  In 2018, over 72% of prison population was under pre-trial detention, with prisoners receiving treatment below international standards[7]. Detention facilities are not functional and/or overcrowded, leading to increased risks for safety and health, and are mostly guarded by soldiers. With support of MINUSCA, the government is working on the implementation of a new national strategy on the demilitarization of the penitentiary system[8]. As of June 2019, 100 prison officers were deployed while another 150 were undergoing training.

Lack of funding is also impacting the capacity to respond to justice needs throughout the country. Based on the 2019 finance law, only 1.2% of the budget (around 5.2 million USD) were allocated to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Almost three quarter of the budget was dedicated to paying salaries while less than 10% went toward much needed investments such as renovation of infrastructure, new vehicles or office supplies.  

The Special Criminal Court (SCC)

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) in the Central African Republic was established by law in June 2015. This hybrid court, composed of 13 judges from the CAR and 12 judges from the international community, is competent to try cases of grave human rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations committed in the country since 2003. The Law also establishes clear penal liability for actions committed by individuals but also for superiors who may be held responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates.

The SCC also benefits from the support of the MINUSCA. The Mission is mandated by the security council to “provide technical assistance […] to facilitate the functioning of the SCC, in particular in the areas of investigations, arrests, detention, criminal and forensic analysis, evidence collection and storage, recruitment and selection of personnel, court management, prosecution strategy and case development and the establishment of a legal aid system, as appropriate, as well as, to provide security for magistrates […] and take measures for the protection of victims and witnesses ” (UNSC Resolution 2448-2018).

However, despite officially starting operation in October 2018, the progress in the operationalisation of the Court have been slow. As of July 2019, the special prosecutor had opened 4 investigations (out of 22 priority cases identified). Another 3 cases transferred from the ordinary courts were also under investigation. Funding is one of the main issues affecting operationality of the Court. With an estimated annual cost of 12.4 million USD, the SCC is operating on a relatively low budget compared to similar courts set up in different contexts. By comparison, the Special Court for Sierra Leone operated for 11 years with a budget of 300 million USD. Furthermore, while the court already had a 1 million deficit as of July 2019, it is unclear to what extent it will be founded in 2020. Furthermore, a lack of qualified staff is affecting both the investigative and administrative capacities of the SCC.  

The Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRRC)

The effective creation of a Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRRC) and the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms had already been included in the recommendations of the Bangui national Forum in May 2015, to no avail. 

The Political Agreement signed in February 2019 between the Government and the signatory armed groups also planned for “the establishment of the Commission on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation with the aim of promoting truth, justice, reparation, national reconciliation and forgiveness ” within 90 days of the signature of the Agreement (Articles 9 and 10).

Though the timeline was not respected, the Commission’s steering committee, created by decree in 2017 and placed under the authority of the prime minister, launched a round of national consultation to clarify what the people expected from the TJRRC[9]. While the scope and actual representativity of those consultations remain unclear, justice appeared to be the highest demand, over the other key pillars (truth, reparation and reconciliation)[10].

c. State Control and Oversight

Improving the system of governance in the CAR has remained a challenge over the last 30 years. In 2018, the CAR was ranked 149 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International, 2018) and 50 out of 54 countries in terms of governance (Ibrahim Index of African Governance, 2018).

Prior to the conflict, the Peacebuilding Commission identified corruption, inefficient separation of powers, and weak management of public finances as key characteristics of the CAR’s governance system (PC, 2008). While the transitional government has made efforts to improve accountability, oversight, and management, the 2013 crisis hindered meaningful governance reforms.

The Parliament, and especially the Defence and Security commission and the commission on Institutions, Democracy, Justice and Administrative Affaires of the National Assembly, should play a key role on the oversight of the security and justice sectors. However, lack of funding, limited human and technical means and constrained access to information are hindering their proper functioning. Both the 2017 National SSR Strategy and the Strategic Plan for the Development of the National Assembly, adopted in 2018, set a series of strategic objectives to restore the National Assembly as an oversight actor and strengthen the capacities of the commissions.

d. Human Rights

The National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (CNDHLF) was created by law in 2017 as an independent institution in charge of protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. Within the Ministry of Justice, the Directorate-General for Human Rights, several services are also tasked with promoting and protecting human rights, monitoring violations and to settle conflicts related to human rights. However, neither institutions have been able fulfil their mandate efficiently. While human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law have decreased over the last months, they remain a major issue affecting the everyday life of civilians. Attacks against civilians, restrictions on the freedom of movement and illegal detention are still frequent.

e. Civil Society

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in the CAR are active and have recognised the critical need for SSR in the country. Predominantly composed of urban-based, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), their objectives have mainly been focused on the promotion of human rights and the right to security. Despite this, CSOs lack political independence and have historically been excluded from the decision-making organs and dialogs regarding SSR. The FOI and DCAF have cited this exclusion as a fundamental reason as to why attempts at SSR in 2008 were unsuccessful (N’Diaye, 2009).

4.2 Relevant external actors

a. MINUSCA

The UN Security Council established the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in 2014 (resolution 2149-2014). MINUSCA came as a replacement for the previous AU-led MISCA. Under its current mandate, extended until 15 November 2019 (resolution 2448-2018), the MINUSCA is allowed to take all necessary means to carry out its mandate, which includes:

  • Protecting the civilian population under threat of physical violence, especially women and children affected by armed conflict;
  • Supporting the peace process, including national reconciliation, social cohesion and transitional justice, and providing good offices and technical expertise;
  • Supporting for the extension of State authority, the deployment of security forces, and the preservation of territorial integrity through planning and technical assistance, including on SSR and DDRR;

To this end, MINUSCA has deployed over 10,000 troops and 300 staff officers. While most are deployed throughout the country to support the restoration of state authority and protect civilians, the mission is also participating to the SSR process, supporting the government in the verification of FACA personnel and conducting sensitisation of vetted military staff on human rights and humanitarian principles. In addition, MINUSCA supports the Government in the preparation and future implementation of the national Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration (DDRR) programme. A DDRR pilot project, which involves 560 combatants from different armed groups, was officially launched on 30 August 2017.

Mandated to provide support and coordinated international assistance to the police, justice and correctional institutions, MINUSCA was also set-up to send 1,800 UN Police personnel. As of October 2019, there were over 2,000 UNPOL staff divided into 12 Formed Police Units (FPU), included 4 deployed outside of Bangui (Bouar, Kaga-Bandoro, Bambari, and Bria)[11]. The central aim is to address ongoing rule of law concerns as well as civilian-on-civilian sectarian violence. This involves efforts to rebuild and train the national police. MINUSCA also participated to the drafting of a five-year-plan of capacities building of Central African Police and National Gendarmerie and is supporting the national authorities in its implementation.

b. EUTM-RCA

Since 2016, the EU Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic (EUTM RCA) advises the Presidential teams overseeing national security policy and SSR. The mandate of the EUTM RCA is currently running until 19 September 2020. The Mission has trained more than 4,000 members of the FACA, including 1,200 officers and non-commissioned officers[12].

c. Bilateral relations

Russia

Since 2017, Russia has been tightening its relationships with the CAR, deploying over 170 experts to train military personnel. As of June 2019, Russia claims to have trained more than 2,200 members of the FACA, including 126 officers[13]. Russian special forces members have also been assigned to the personal protection of the president Touadéra[14]. In January 2018 and August 2019, Russia’s Ministry of Defence supplied the FACA with weapons and ammunition, using the opportunity of a partial easing of the embargo in place since 2013. In parallel to the AU’s initiatives, Russia also hosted peace talks between the armed groups and the government in Sudan.

France

In August 1960, a few days after the declaration of independence, the CAR signed a defence agreement with France, followed by a second military cooperation agreement in 1966. Those agreements have been the basis for several French interventions in the country since[15]. Operation Sangaris, launched in 2013 and concluded in 2016, is the last in date of those interventions. The country remains implicated in the CAR through its contributions to EUTM-RCA and MINUSCA[16]. Through CIVIPOL, France is also supporting the redeployment of the internal security forces, with train-and-equip programs and sensitisation of the local population. However, the increased presence of Russia in the CAR has challenged the French influence over the country.

USA

Shortly after the first Russian arms delivery in January 2018, the USA announced a 12.6 million USD funding to train and equipped the FACA[17].

5- Security Sector Reform

A National Seminar on Security Sector Reform was organised in Bangui for the first time in April 2008, with the support of several international partners, including the World Bank, the UNDP, the EU, France and Belgium (GRIP 2009). The process adopted a holistic approach to SSR; the institutions identified as in need of reform included the FACA, the national police, the gendarmerie, border control, and the intelligence services in addition to the executive branch, the parliament, and the judicial system more generally. Themes such as democratic control, governance, media, civil society, gender, the link between DDRR and SSR, and the proliferation of small arms were highlighted as well. The process concluded with the adoption of a detailed roadmap of short- and long-term projects as well as a list of priority objectives (Government of the Central African Republic 2008).

Despite these efforts, implementation of the SSR remains limited to the execution of a few projects.  The CAR has been unable to provide institutional capacity, independent social services and security for the general population. The security forces have on the contrary continued to contribute to general insecurity and numerous human rights violations against civilians (OHCHR 2017, OHCHR 2018).

5.1 Strategic Framework of SSR

a. National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan for the Central African Republic

Following the 2015 elections, the newly formed Government requested support from the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank to assess recovery and peacebuilding needs and priorities. A Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment (RPBA) was carried out between May and October 2016 through a desk study synthesizing existing information and extensive consultations of the government, civil society and private sector actors, local population, donors and experts. (Government of the Central African Republic 2016)

This process resulted in a National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan approved by the government in October 2016. The document highlights the underlying drivers of fragility and conflict in the country and sets a framework for recovery and peace building focussing on three priority pillars (IASC 2018, Government of the Central African Republic 2016):

1- Supporting peace, security and reconciliation through the implementation of SSR and DDR programs

2- Renewing the social contract between the State and the population by redeploying the administration and offering public services across the country while taking actions to ensure good governance

3- Promoting the economic recovery and boosting the productive sector

b. The National Security Policy

The organisation of a political roundtable on security, which resulted in the 2015 Declaration on the Principles of National Security paved the way for the adoption of a new National Security Policy (NSP). Previous SSR attempts in the country suffered from a lack of a comprehensive and global approach to security. The NSP’s objective is to address this issue by providing a global strategic vision. A Superior Council of National Security was created to monitor the implementation of the Policy.

c. The National SSR Strategy

The National SSR Strategy was adopted in 2017. The document assess the current security situation in the country, the state of the different security actors and institutions and lays out the vision and key objectives it aims to achieve.

This document is not the first attempt to implement an SSR program in the CAR. In 2008, an initiative based on a holistic approach of SSR and national ownership was adopted following a national seminar on SSR. More than 140 key short and medium-term activities were identified. However, the reform process stalled and, two years after its adoption, remained limited to a few actions. Lessons should be drawn from this past experience to ensure the success of the ongoing process. Several factors were identified as hindering the success of the 2008 SSR attempt[18]:

  • The concentration of power in the executive and the lack of empowerment of the Parliament
  • Lack of long-term vision, decisions are driven by short-term and personal interests
  • Lack of a clear definition of responsibilities and division of labour between the various national and international actors involved in the SSR process
  • Project-based/short-term funding and lack of continuity in the international engagement
  • Insufficient coordination and cooperation between the SSR and DDR processes

d. The National Defence Plan

The National Defence Plan (NDP) was adopted in 2017 to oversee the implementation of the National Security Policy and of the National SSR Strategy. The document analyses the state of the play and examines the current situation of the national armed forces, identifying the main gaps and challenges. The redeployment of the armed forces throughout the national territory is the main goal set out by the NDP.

e. The Global Plan for the Restructuring and Redeployment of the Interior Security Forces

The Global Plan for the Restructuring and Redeployment of the Interior Security Forces (PGRR-FSI) for 2018-2023 prepares for the redeployment of the police and gendarmerie in three phases. However, despite a few punctual actions and activities, the structural reforms of the ISF have not been implemented and main issues still remain unaddressed. 

f. The National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

The NAP does not however concentrate on the integration of women in the armed forces. As of August 2019, less than 8% of the members of the FACA are women.

5.2 Key challenges and future considerations

A communication plan for the SSR strategy was adopted in 2018. However, knowledge and understanding of the SSR process remain limited. Popular participation and adhesion to the SSR process is vital to its success and should therefore be encouraged through an efficient communication strategy and the inclusion of civil society actors.

Despite the existence of a comprehensive framework for SSR, the implementation is irregular and effects on the ground remain limited. The recruitment of new police and gendarmerie officers has not been joined to the adoption of a clear training strategy. Investments remain too limited to cover the needs in infrastructures and material means.  

The implementation of the DDRR is perceived as a necessary condition for peace by over 75% of the population[19]. However, despite being included in each of the peace agreement signed between the government and the different armed groups over the past decade, the DDRR process is stalling, thus impacting the redeployment of the FACA and other public services. Despite some encouraging steps, justice actors, especially judges, are still mainly concentrated in Bangui. The limited presence of justice and civilian security providers (police and gendarmerie) outside of the capital is hampering the progressive return of rule of law in the country.  

List of Acronyms

AU African Union
BONUCA UN Peace-Building Support Office in the Central African Republic
CAR Central African Republic
CEEAC Economic Community of Central African States
CIRGL International Conference on the Great Lakes Region
CNDHLF National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties
CSO Civil Society Organisations
DCAF Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance
DDR Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration
DDRR Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration
EU European Union
EUTM-RCA EU Military training mission in the Central African Republic
FACA Central African Armed Forces
FDPC Democratic Front of the Central African People
FOI Swedish Defence Research Agency
GP Presidential Guard
GRIP Group for Research and Information on Peace and security
IHL International Humanitarian Law
ISF Interior Security Forces
MINURCA United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic
MINUSCA UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR
MISCA African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic
MISAB African mission in Central African Republic
MPC Central African Patriotic Movement
NAP National Action Plan
NDP National Defence Plan
NGO Non-Governmental Organisations
NSP National Security Plan
OCHA United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
PGRR-FSI Global Plan for the Restructuring and Redeployment of the Interior Security Forces
RPBA Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment
SCC Special Criminal Court
SSR Security Sector Reform
TJRRC Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Reconciliation Commission
UFDR Union of Democratic Forces for Unity
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNSC United Nations Security Council
UPC Union for Peace in the Central African Republic
USA United States of America
USD United States Dollars
USMS Mixed Special Security Units

Footnotes

[1] A ninth peace deal was signed following the Brazzaville Forum in 2014. The agreement, signed by Transition President Catherine Samba-Panza and leaders of the ex-Seleka and anti-balaka armed groups, should have guaranteed the confinement of the armed groups and restored the government’s access to the entire national territory.

[2] USIP, 15/05/2017 : https://www.usip.org/publications/2017/05/2015-2016-central-african-republic-elections-look-back

[3] Jeune Afrique, 04/03/2019: https://www.jeuneafrique.com/744690/politique/accord-de-paix-en-centrafrique-5-des-14-groupes-armes-signataires-desavouent-le-gouvernement/ Jeune Afrique, 22/03/2019 : https://www.jeuneafrique.com/753248/politique/centrafrique-les-groupes-armes-gagnent-des-portefeuilles-dans-le-nouveau-gouvernement/ ISS, 01/10/2019: https://issafrica.org/pscreport/psc-insights/the-cars-peace-deal-under-threat

[4] OCHA 17/09/2019: https://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/office-humanitarian-coordinator-central-african-republic-press, ISS, 07/10/2019: https://issafrica.org/iss-today/can-the-central-african-republics-peace-deal-be-saved

[5] United Nations General Assembly, 09/08/2019 : https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/a_hrc_42_61.pdf

[6] ILAC, 2017 : http://www.ilacnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ILACs-Rule-of-Law-Assessment-Report-Central-Africa-Republic-2017-.pdf, EU, 2018 : https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/3/2018/FR/C-2018-9167-F1-FR-ANNEX-1-PART-1.PDF

[7] UNDP/Government of the CAR, 07/2019: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/23414Central_African_Republic_VNR_2019_FINAL.pdf

[8] UN 16/01/2019: https://www.un.int/news/central-african-government-signs-prison-demilitarization-strategy

[9] MINUSCA, 07/06/2019 : https://minusca.unmissions.org/consulter-les-centrafricains-sur-la-commission-justice-v%C3%A9rit%C3%A9-r%C3%A9paration-et-r%C3%A9conciliation

[10] Commission Vérité : les Centrafricains consultés, en toute discrétion, 12/09/2019, Justice Info, https://www.justiceinfo.net/fr/commissions-verite/42347-commission-verite-les-centrafricains-consultes-en-toute-discretion.html

[11] MINUSCA, 02/10/2019: https://minusca.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/unpol_strengh_summary_as_of_02_october_2019.pdf

[12] EUTM-RCA, 19/09/2019: https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/20190919_mission_factsheet_eutm_rca.pdf

[13] Permanent Mission of the Russia Federation to the United Nations, 20/06/2019: https://russiaun.ru/en/news/car_200619

[14] GRIP, 09/08/2019: https://www.grip.org/sites/grip.org/files/BREVES/2018/EC_2018-08-09_FR_C-LOBEZ.pdf

[15] GRIP, 09/08/2019: https://www.grip.org/sites/grip.org/files/BREVES/2018/EC_2018-08-09_FR_C-LOBEZ.pdf

[16] 7 individual police and 9 staff officers directly deployed to MINUSCA. Show-of-force support from Barkhane: https://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/barkhane/actualites/barkhane-appui-aerien-en-republique-centrafricaine

[17] U.S. Embassy in the Central African Republic, 05/03/2019: https://cf.usembassy.gov/united-states-announces-additional-support-to-the-faca/

[18] Centre for Security Governance, 2014 : https://secgovcentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/SSR-2.0-Brief-1-Teodora-and-Law.pdf

[19] Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 05/2019: http://www.peacebuildingdata.org/sites/m/pdf/CAR_Poll-Report_04_fr.pdf

The International Security Sector Advisory Team

The International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) provides practical support to the international community in its efforts to improve security and justice, primarily in conflict-affected and fragile states. It does this by working with a group of member states and institutions to develop and promote good security and justice reform practices and principles, and by helping its members to build their capacity to support national and regional security and justice reform processes.

Organisation