Central African Republic Background Note


Key Statistics

Population: 4.6 million (World Bank, 2013)

Capital: Bangui

Languages: French (official), Sangho (lingua franca and national language), tribal languages

Major Ethnic Groups: French (official), Sangho (lingua franca and national language), tribal languages

GDP per Capita (current US dollars): 394 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

GDP per Capita PPP (current international dollars): 575 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

Security Sector Stats

Active Armed Forces: 7,150 (Military Balance, 2014)

Small Arms: The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Central African Republic is 40,000; the defence forces are reported to have 3,300 to 5,552 firearms; and Police in Central African Republic are reported to have 2,359 (Gun Policy, 2015)

Military Expenditure: 2.6% of GDP (World Bank, 2010)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and General Background

2. The Political Context

3. Security Sector Overview

4. Security Sector Reform - A Sectoral View

    i.  Governance

        a. Oversight and Management

        b. CSOs and Non-State Actors

    ii. Defence Reform

    iii. Presidential (Republican) Guard

    iv. Justice Reform

    v. Police Reform

5. Future Considerations

1. Introduction and General Background

Located in the heart of Africa and landlocked between 6 neighbouring countries, the Central African Republic (CAR) possesses an abundance of water, agriculture and mineral resources, including uranium reserves, crude oil, gold, 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 180 out of 187 countries in the 2012 Human Development Index. Mismanagement of funds and corruption has been largely responsible for the stagnant and weak economy, which has proven incapable of providing basic services for the 4 million people residing within the CAR borders.

The population, composed of over 80 ethnic communities and 3 major religions, is predominantly located along the Ubangi and Chari river basin. Sango, the lingua franca, and French, the official language of the CAR, act as one of the few commonalities amongst the CAR diverse population.

Since its independence from France in 1960, the CAR underwent a series of coup d’états and autocratic rulers, before holding multiparty elections in 1993. The 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. Between 2012 and 2013, the CAR underwent additional coups which plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis, displacing almost a quarter of the population and leaving half of it in need of humanitarian assistance. The conflict has taken on political, regional and ethnic dimensions, prompting the presence of a variety of peacekeeping forces in the capital Bangui.

2. The Political Context

After its independence in 1960, the CAR has faced unending political and security challenges. The 1966coup d’état that placed military commander Jean Bedel-Bokassa as Head of State manifested the political instability and the general misuse of the security apparatus that still plagues the country today. Bokassa alongside the succeeding presidents David Dacko and Andre Kolingba helped to concentrate power into the hands of an unregulated cabinet, in addition to ethicising and dividing the security forces. The 1993 multiparty elections that ended a period of almost 30 years of autocratic rule were won by Ange Felix Patassé, a civilian political figure supported by Chad, with a majority vote of 52.2 percent, ending Kolingba’s presidency.

During Patassé’s decade presidency, 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 for survival (ICG, 2014). In addition, Patassé built up the Presidential Guard (GP) at the expense of the army, further ethicising the state security forces[1]. As a result, violent confrontations between the two forces accelerated, contributing to the mounting political and ethnic tensions throughout the 1990s. The series of mutinies, militia activities, rebellions,coupsd’état and social stagnation, prompted further international intervention and exacerbated the state’s need for foreign peacekeeping forces (N’Diaye, 2009).

International organisations and donor countries provided a variety of peace support operations during Patassé’s presidency. In order to protect constitutional order in the country, the French sent in 2,300 military forces, and facilitated the integration of an international peacekeeping force. The United Nations Peace-Building Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) was tasked with peace consolidation and promotion of national reconciliation[2]. Additionally, in 2002, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) sent in a 350 man standing army to help protect the capital as a result of the growing rebellions and mutinies. However, the lack of coordination between donor organisations caused tension, greatly hindering each mission’s efficiency (ICG, 2007).

On March 15, 2003, General François Bozizé overthrew Patassé in an externally backed coup. Bangui initially fell into a state of chaos as the new Chadian and Sudanese forces extracted payments through widespread looting of civilians. After two years in office Bozizé established a constitution and held a multiparty election, which he won. The new regime did not fulfil the promises made. The judiciary was not considered independent, there appeared to be disregard for human rights, and true power and control of security apparatus was concentrated amongst Bozizé’s allies, despite the illusion of a politically diverse government.  As a result, a number of armed opposition groups rejected Bozizé’s claim to legitimacy, instigating violence, insecurity and communal divisions throughout the country[3].

During this period, the GP committed extensive acts of brutality in the north-west, resulting in the displacement of over 100,000 people, the burning of thousands of homes, and the execution of hundreds of civilians. The government did little to punish these acts, cementing a culture of impunity.  Legitimate use of force melted away, leaving the security of the state in the hands of foreign peacekeeping troops such as the BONUCA[4].

After the 2005 elections, the internal violence and rebel warfare that spread throughout the CAR, in addition to the regional instability that pervaded central Africa prompted the international community to intervene more aggressively. As a result, by 2010, a number of peace agreements were signed between the government and three of the major rebel groups with the help of BONUCA.  The peace agreements set the need for inclusive political dialog (IPD), amnesty for soldiers and DDR. In addition, the CAR hosted its first national seminar on SSR. While these seminars instilled a new sense of optimism towards security and institutional reform, there were no serious efforts with regards to implementation.  The situation in the CAR evolved into a new downturn and by February 2009, the IPD began dissolving, as violence and reports of human rights violations re-emerged.

By 2012, several Muslim-led rebel groups, primarily from the marginalised North East, formed a coalition called the Seleka[5], who launched a military campaign and successfully overthrew Bozizé on March 23, 2013. Michel Djotodia, former rebel leader of Le Union de Force Démocratic pour le Rassemblement[6], declared himself interim President. This prompted most of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) to flee and triggered complete institutional collapse of the security sector, facilitating widespread attacks involving violence, rape, looting, and destruction of entire villages. Brutal attacks were frequent, especially in the Christian North-West area, which was perceived as Bozizé’s stronghold (CRS, 2014). In turn, and further intensifying the violence, a predominantly Christian-led North-Western militia known as the anti-balakas[7] emerged and targeted Muslim communities.  With help from the FACA defectors the anti-balakas contributed to general insecurity in the CAR, committing crimes against humanity[8].

Djotodia’s inability to disband the Seleka culminated in his resignation from the CAR National Transitional Council in January 2014[9]. This ad hoc body selected Catherine Samba-Panza, former mayor of Bangui as the Interim President, but despite calling for national reconciliation and making attempts at reconstituting the CAR armed forces, progress has been slow. Some have also criticised Samba-Panza for the poor screening during recruitment, for the inability to balance the ethnically and religiously charged armed forces, and for incapacity to regulate on theanti-balakas, who have been closely linked to the FACA (CRS, 2014). The resignation, in August 2014, of interim Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke alongside 20 cabinet members suspected of having committed human rights abuses highlights this criticism.

As of July 2014, 397,000 civilians had fled to neighbouring countries, 527,000 remained internally displaced, and an estimated 2.5 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance (UNOCHA, 2014). In response to the growing crisis, the international community in collaboration with the interim government focused their attention on containing the violence, protecting civilians, laying the foundation for humanitarian action and stronger peacekeeping in the CAR, as well as for reconciliation. In addition, a UN Multidimensional Peacekeeping Mission to the CAR (MINUSCA) began deployment in September 2014, replacing the former peacekeeping forces.

The instability in the CAR also derives from the spill-over of regional conflicts.  Given its geographic location, violence in neighbouring countries has often crossed borders into the CAR, fuelling the already precarious environment.  For example, the conflict in Darfur created 30,000 refugees within the CAR, yet the country’s inability to respond to these crises implies its systematic reliance on international intervention and external peacekeeping forces to protect its territory.  Illustrative were the UN and EUFOR[10] deployments of armed and civilian forces along the borders from 2007-2010.  The same pattern was also visible in the 2013 crisis, in which the CAR had to rely on the AU peacekeeping force -MISCA- composed of Chadian and Ugandan forces, to protect the border regions primarily from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan based insurgent group. The LRA has spread throughout the region, making itself present in Sudan, the CAR and the DRC. In 2010 the LRA killed over 2,000 CAR inhabitants, as well as kidnapped, pillaged and raped civilians (UNHCR, 2010). Since 2013, attacks by the LRA have increased in the CAR, with a 47 per cent raise in kidnappings, mainly in Seleka controlled regions. The Ugandan Army stated on July 1, 2014 that the LRA and the Seleka were allies, thereby turning the mintoa Ugandan enemy as well (Reuters, 2014).  Nonetheless, a Seleka spokesperson denied the claim, stating there was no link between the LRA and the Seleka.

3. Security Sector Overview

Security sector reform (SSR) has gradually moved from the periphery to the centre of policy discussions in the CAR.  More concretely, the CAR and the international donor community began pursuing  the idea of reforms in the security sector as a result of both foreign and CAR rebels, criminals and zaraguinas (road cutters) increasingly operating freely outside the capital. In 2008, a detailed roadmap of short and long term projects was established at a national seminar on SSR. The institutions identified as being in need of reform were the FACA, the national police, the gendarmerie, the presidential guard and the intelligence services, in addition to the executive branch, the parliament and the judicial system. Themes such as democratic control, governance, media, civil society, gender, the link between DDR and SSR, and the proliferation of small armed weapons were highlighted as well (FOI, 2012).  Despite these efforts, SSR was limited to the execution of a few projects by 2010.  Described as a phantom state in 2011[11], the CAR has been unable to provide institutional capacity, independent social services and protection for the general population.  Moreover, the security forces have been contributing to the general insecurity and numerous human rights violations against civilians.

As a result of the 2013 crisis, international support has come in the form of deployment of multidimensional operations with the protection of civilians remaining the priority.  Under the Security Council Resolution 2149, MINUSCA was tasked with providing SSR assistance; however this is subsidiary to the six pillar plan objectives. Yet, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed in his opening remarks during the UN Security Council Meeting 7161, SSR needs to be incorporated in the broader context of reform. He cited the requirement for improved mapping of the needs and gaps of the CAR, as well as the facilitation and coordination amongst the international community as key issues.  In addition to MINUSCA efforts, the UNDP has been one of the main players with regards to SSR in the CAR.  It has adopted a framework aimed at supporting local governance, SSR and the upcoming electoral process of 2015, and aims to stabilise communities through a phased implementation of community security, livelihoods, social cohesion and reconciliation initiatives (UNDP, 2014).

As part of the international support efforts, in 24 March, 2014, the AU and partners concluded a joint SSR assessment and workshop in the CAR, in which stakeholders discussed options for reviving the stalled SSR policy. The workshop was opened by Transitional Vice President Madam Lea Koyessoum-Doumta, and included frank discussions concerning the challenges of SSR as well as recommendations to move forward.

4. Security Sector Reform- A Sectoral View

i.  Governance

a. Oversight and Management

Improving the system of governance in the CAR has remained a challenge in the last 30 years. In 2013, the CAR was ranked 144 out of 177 in terms of transparency (Transparency International, 2013) and 49th in terms of governance (African Liberty, 2013), leaving it with one of the poorest governance records in the world. While the transitional government has made efforts to improve accountability, oversight and management, the 2013 crisis hindered meaningful governance reforms.

Prior to the 2012 conflict, the Peacebuilding Commission identified corruption, inefficient separation of powers, and weak management of public finances as key components of the CAR’s governance system (PC, 2008). Because the constitution allows the president to appoint all cabinet members without parliamentary approval, power over the security apparatus has become systemically concentrated in the executive[12]. The constitution also stipulates a division of powers amongst the various state branches, with the National Assembly controlling the accounts, the right to declare war, and the right to enquire the executive as to any matter pertaining to security and defence. However, there has been a tradition of excessive deterrence, with the parliament underprepared or unwilling to play a more meaningful and effective role, especially regarding SSR (N’Diaye, 2009). The judiciary also benefits from the provision of separation of powers; yet due to the severe constraints in terms of financial management and personnel, it struggles to operate independently and effectively.

Corruption and mismanagement of resources have also proved highly problematic.  Under Bozizé, the National Commission of Fight against Corruption was put in place as a means to re-establish state authority and close the gap in terms of government management, decision making and implementation. International actors such as the World Bank have also facilitated a variety of efforts, with the Economic and Social Policy Framework (ESPF) highlighting the need for anticorruption efforts, institution building and governance reform. Additionally, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), through incorporating the promotion of good governance as its first pillar, targeted the improvement of public sector and economic governance. In 2013, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa held a session in which the issues regarding anti-corruption were discussed and a roadmap was detailed.

b. CSOs and Non-State Actors

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in the CAR have historically been active and involved in efforts to address the country’s problems, and have recognised the need for SSR as critical. 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 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).

As regards the 2013 crisis, several CSOs have been outspoken and active in attempts to end the violence and achieve peace. In a public declaration made in 2012, CSOs condemned the seizure of power by force, the FACA’s weak capacity to protect its citizens, the distribution of small arms and firearms, and the erection of illegal barriers outside Bangui.  They also demanded a ceasefire, an inclusive dialog with international presence, and the protection of civilians. This declaration was followed by a memorandum, in which various CSOs outlined the causes of the conflict, alongside recommendationsvis-à-visthe promotion of transparency by the transitional government regarding reforms.  In addition, religious leaders have prominently advocated for peace, strongly expressing a desire to see stability restored, and the protection of both Christian and Muslim citizens fleeing the violent clashes ensured (Time, 2014).  An example of international cooperation in this area is the assistance that Conciliation Resources has been providing to the religious leaders in the CAR to support ‘peace committees’ that will promote dialogue and reconciliation in communities outside Bangui.

ii. Defence Reform

The defence sector has often been regarded as the major source of instability and the primary area in need of reform. Historically, state security and defence forces have been used as a tool by the elites and the politicians, as opposed to being a means of safeguarding civilians.  Both the FACA and the GP, who have historically been rival forces, have engaged in violent clashes and committed crimes against humanity.

Poorly equipped, improperly trained and unmotivated, the armed forces were incapable of preventing and stopping the rebel forces from ensuing chaos in the CAR in 2013, further highlighting their inability to protect citizens inside and especially outside the capital. As a result, international actors have committed to setting-up peace operations with the aim to contain and eventually stop the violence, as well as to provide civilian protection.  Under the UN Security Council Resolution 2127 the French military (Opération Sangaris) and the AU-led International Mission for Support to the Central African Republic (MISCA) have been mandated to support DDR and contribute to SSR. The French Sangaris and the MISCA (3,652 personnel) have allocated soldiers and police to conduct training, and MINUSCA has pledged troops and police in addition to a civilian component. 

Prior to the SSR initiative of 2008, the FACA was composed of Bozizé “loyalists”, mutineers and Chadian mercenaries who struggled with reintegration, and were poorly equipped, lacking in discipline and prone to human rights abuses[13]. In the past, reforming the FACA was challenging due to their resistance to change, particularly that implying greater oversight and partial removal of their power.

The establishment of BONUCA was amongst the first efforts towards defence reform and SSR. BONUCA’s mission was aimed at supporting the government in carrying out military reforms, in addition to promoting political dialogue between informal security forces and the government, hosting workshops pertaining to justice and defence reform, and collaborating in the promotion of human rights. However, these attempts proved to be limited. The Center on International Cooperation accused the mission of being weak in “research, analysis and the development of policy lines” (CIC, 2009) while the FOI cited the lack of inclusion of civil society and informal security forces as the reason for the failure to reform the FACA (FOI, 2010). Thereafter, the Peacebuilding Commission was tasked with the facilitation and development of a new policy approach with a stronger focus on SSR. BONUCA’s successor, i.e., the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA)[14], started to work on the facilitation of DDR and monitoring of the armed forces. However, the situation unravelled rapidly, and the efforts towards disarmament and demobilisation failed, with the assaults of the LRA became increasingly violent and aggressive around the Ugandan borders.

Despite the above, the institutional collapse of the FACA materialised after the 2013 coup, since these forces were overwhelmed and forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Only 10 per cent of the FACA returned after the coup (UN Security Council, 2013), and many also joined the Anti-Balaka, leaving the country without an operational defence force.  In light of this situation, the MISCA took most responsibility with regards to stabilisation and restructuring and reform of the FACA, in addition to that of the national police.  The MISCA provided basic training for the FACA, as well as logistic and military support in securing the capital’s infrastructure and main supply roads.  Their 6 month mandate derived from an integrated support approach and also included the implementation of DDR and SSR.  Nonetheless, and despite MISCA’s provision of considerable protection and support in the CAR, the geographical scope of their mandate[15], the limited number of trained personnel, and the amount of time allocated far exceeded its capabilities. While DDR had been listed as a priority in terms of peacebuilding efforts, the ’Union Syndicale des Travailleurs de Centrafrique’ highlighted the lack of a concrete strategy of implementation, which was hindering progress (UNDP, 2014).  Prominent issues in the defence reform agenda include the definition of a model for the CAR army, registration and vetting, and the actual process of transformation.

iii. Presidential (Republican) Guard

Although the Presidential Guard is considered as being part of the FACA, it has consistently been treated as a separate entity that comes under the direct command of the head of state. Since Patassé’s rule the GP has been highly ethnically centred. The succeeding heads of state have followed in his footsteps, keeping those serving in the GP loyal to the President and his ethnic group. The GP has been accused of human rights’ violations such as extra-judicial killings, rape, rampaging, ransoming of drivers etc. These crimes have generally remained unpunished, further cementing the culture of impunity within the security forces.

The initial 2008 SSR programme did not include the GP, although they received training and equipment from South Africa and Sudan, under bilateral agreements. Since 2010, international support in favour of training the GP has increased, with Belgium, Germany, the World Bank and theOrganisation International de la Francophonie(OIF) providing support.  Nonetheless, recent heads of state have been nervous to “democratise” or to diversify these forces, renewing the legacy of resistance to significant reform in the GP.

iv. Justice Reform

Police and justice reform have been understood as interconnected areas, and therefore have been grouped under the same reform mandate in the CAR. The international agency leading in this area has been the UNDP, who launched an emergency programme to reactivate the system, so as to deliver citizens’ access to justice.  The programme included the provision of equipment, such as office furniture, computers and vehicles, as well as training for judicial staff.  It also comprised the transfer of USD 4.6 million from the UN Peace-building Fund to the Bank of Central African States, to cover salaries of 3,417 police and gendarmes from May to August 2014, in addition to financing the payroll of 20,000 civil servants.  In addition, assessments were being carried out by joint committees composed by the UN, the Ministry of Security and a joint inspection unit of the gendarmerie/police, in order to implement a vetting system for the security forces.

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.  In addition, prison infrastructure was in a derelict state and over 75% of its population was under pre-trial detention, with prisoners in general receiving below international standard treatment.  In 2010, assessments conducted by the CAR government, BONUCA and BINUCA highlighted the severe lack of infrastructure and human resources within the justice sector. With less than two percent of the national budget allocated to the justice sector and around 200 magistrates for a population of 4.5 million, efforts to strengthen the capacity of the justice sector became a priority.  Donors enacted a mandate for the establishment of a stronger justice component within BINUCA’s Human Rights and Justice Section to enhance the capacity of the justice sector and promote the rule of law, justice and accountability.Advisory services and institutional support were to be provided to the Ministry of Justice, focusing on the harmonisation and drafting of laws, carrying-out seminars to disseminate newly promulgated criminal laws and criminal procedure codes, and supporting the creation of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration et de la MagistratureandMaison du Droit.[16]

Activities aimed at improving the performance of the justice sector have also taken place through the organisation of a round table between the Ministry of Justice and the donors in 2010, in which a national strategic justice policy was presented and adopted.  Furthermore, the Ministry also participated in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) discussions, which ensured that dialogue pertaining to developments in the justice sector was incorporated in the policies adopted by international donors such as the World Bank and the Peacebuilding Commission[17]. Following from this the UNDP and the EU have established a variety of projects.  For example, the UNDP programme revolves around three thematic strategies: the performance of the judicial system and the judicial chain, the performance of the penal system and administration, and overall access to justice by the population.  During the annual meeting on the UNDP’s Global programme to Strengthen the Rule of Law in Crisis Affected and Fragile Situations, national and international support was shown for addressing major issues such as sexual and gender based violence. The UNDP’s rule of law programme aims to address the legacies of violence, increase safety and security for all, build confidence through accessible and effective justice and security institutions, and improve the delivery of justice and security for women. UNDP support has also contributed to resume hearings from the First Instance Court, Appeals Court and Supreme Court.

Additionally, Women’s initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ), a CSO active since 2006, has been monitoring, reporting and supporting initiatives related to gender and justice, as well as advocating for this cause at regional and international workshops.  In 2014 the President of the Transitional Council requested foreign judges to support and work alongside local magistrates, in the hope of ensuring an adequate level of training for magistrates and the police.  It also established a Mobile Court to operate nation-wide and reduce the number of backlogged cases.  

v. Police Reform

The National Police, who falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior, has historically suffered from weak institutional capacity, aggravated by the FACA’s repeated attacks and mutinies targeting police stations. Under Bozizé, the National Police was highly understaffed, with a force of 1,350 officers for a population of 4 million. 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 are in need of reform.

The 2013 crisis further highlighted the requirement for an effective police force in the country, leading MISCA to place particular emphasis on police support and reform. MISCA deployed 1,025 police personnel, comprising police units of 140 staff each to facilitate the implementation of a professional policing mandate establishing the maintenance of safety and democracy. This included support for maintenance of law and order, protection of civilians, capacity building through training, mentoring, advising and monitoring, and support for SSR and police reform. Whilst a significant contribution was made, the scale of the crisis exceeded MISCA’s ability (MINUSCA, 2014).

Mandated under the UN Security Council Report 2127 to provide support and coordinated international assistance to the police, justice and correctional institutions, MINUSCA was set-up to send 1,800 UNPol personnel in September 2014. This represents a 150 per cent increase in police personnel deployed in the CAR. 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, in addition to INTERPOL’s facilitation of the process of restoring security in the country with a particular emphasis on the growing threat of terrorism and crimes facing the country.

In comparison to the other state statutory forces, the Gendarmerie has been the most constant in size and the least in need of reform (Small Arms Survey, 2008; DCAF, 2009). It was considered the ‘best of’ in comparison to both the FACA and the national police. Even in the absence of SSR, the gendarmerie demonstrated higher levels of professionalism, awareness of human rights and openness to civil society elements.“The gendarmerie remains an island of sorts in the overall security architecture of the CAR, because of its more professional outlook, its presence throughout the national territory, its post-conflict restructuring by France and its better equipment”(DCAF, 2009).  Despite this, issues such as ethnic recruitment, aging personnel and insufficient equipment still plague the force. 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.

The UN and the US have called for a more focused reconstitution of the gendarmerie alongside the police, once an elected government has been put in place.  Training both forces including human rights as a cornerstone, in addition to properly equipping them will be vital to the sustainability and restoration of legitimacy by the police institutions.  

5. Future Considerations

Although the CAR has historically struggled to effectively manage its security and justice sector, the sectarian violence that unravelled in early 2013 resulted in the direct collapse of the security institutions. As the interim government in collaboration with national and international actors work to establish stability and peace, the initial stages towards complete restructuring and reforming of the security sector are already underway.  Yet, further work is required towards the implementation of a comprehensive strategy that includes important security actors such as the forest guards, the customs officials and the penal services, whilst not losing sight of the need to seriously involve civil society. The AU meeting on SSR hosted by the Vice-President of the CAR further denotes the government’s willingness to reform. However, this is not the CAR’s first attempt at implementing SSR, and in order to prevent history from repeating itself, coordination amongst donors needs to be improved, sectarian violence needs to cease, DDR needs to be successfully implemented and SSR needs to be a locally owned and accepted process. Success will be largely determined by the 2015 elections and the government’s ability to genuinely prioritise and implement SSR once constitutional order and stability are further enhanced.

List of Acronyms

AU African Union GP Presidential Guard
BONUCA The United Nations Peace-Building Office in the Central African Republic INTERPOL International Police Organisation
CAR Central African republic IPD Inclusive Politically Dialog
CEMAC Central African Economic and Monetary Community LRA Lords Resistance Army
CSO Civil Society Organisations MINUSCA United Nations Multidimensional Peacekeeping Mission to CAR
DDR Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration MISCA The African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic
DCAF Democratic Centre for the Control of Armed Forces OIF Organisation International de la Francophonie
ESPF Economic and Social Policy Framework PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy Policy
EU European Union SSR Security Sector Reform
EUFOR European Union Force UNDP United Nations Development Project
FACA Central African Republic’s Armed Forces WIGJ Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice
FOI Fakultet organizacije i informatike BINUCA The United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office in the Central African Republic


Appendix I

President Tenure Reason for Leaving                                            Contribution to the security sector
David Dacko 1960-1965 Coup d’etat

David Dacko became the first President after Barthélémy Bogando, leader of the CAR at the independence, who died in a plane accident. Soon after taking office, Dacko retained the portfolio of MoD and Keeper of the Seals and amended the Constitution to transform his regime into a one-party state with a strong presidency elected for 7-year terms. 


Jean-Bédel Bokassa 1966-1979 Coup d’etat

Dacko was overthrown by Jean-Bédel Bokassa, his Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Bokassa established the Revolutionary Council. He invalidated the Constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and took on the title of President, Prime Minister, Commander in Chief of the Army, and leader of the only existing political party. Awarded the title “The butcher of Bangui” by Time magazine, Bokassa attracted attention after the arrest and killing by its Imperial Guard of over 100 school children. After the French backed coup, which disposed of Bokassa, he was sentenced to death for assassinations, concealing corpses and embezzlement. He served 7 years in prison before Kolingba pardoned him.


David Dacko 1979-1981 Coup d’etat[i]

Reinstated by the French, Dacko was unable to gain popularity due to his dependence on France. Subsequently, he dissolved two opposition parties, suspended a third, and arrested rival political leaders.  However, these methods were unsuccessful as in September 1981 he was once again ousted in a coup.


André Kolingba 1981- 1993 Election defeat

André Kolingba maintained much of the autocratic rule established during Bokassa. He additionally altered the composition of the armed forces, ethnically concentrating the army in favor of the Yakoma, who represented 70% of the FACA by the time he left office.  Nonetheless, he was the first hold to multiparty elections, which he lost in 1993 to Ange-Felix Patassé.


Ange-Felix Patassé 1993-2003 Coup d’etat

Patassé did little to rectify the situation of the security institutions in the CAR. He manipulated the GP by concentrating in it members of the ethnic Sara tribe. This prompted clashes between the FACA and the GP, leading to a series of violent confrontations.


François Bozizé 2003-2013 Coup d’etat

François Bozizé came to power through an externally backed coup. In 2004, he created the Constitution and in 2005 multiparty elections were held. Bozizé established the IPD and promoted a national seminar on SSR. However, the DDR and SSR policies implemented under his rule obtained mixed results, failing largely after 2009.  In addition, his inability to follow through on promises made during peace negotiations eventually culminated in the coups staged by the Seleka.


Michel Djotodia 2013-2014 Resigned[ii]

Michel Djotodia was the former rebel leader who came to power after the coup staged by the Seleka groups. Unable to control the Seleka,to reinstitute a professional army and to prevent the anti-balakas militias from attacking civilians, Djotodia was forced to resign after only one year in office.


Catherine Samba-Panza 2014-   Catherine Samba-Panza serves as the interim President until the upcoming elections in 2015. She has been hailed as the “mother of courage” by major media outlets despite also been criticised for her inability to ethnically balance the security forces and implement successful recruitment tactics. In July 2014,Seleka and Anti-Balaka forces signed a peace agreement, marking a milestone in the conflict. Unfortunately, the peace agreement was short lived, as both groups accused each other of violating the ceasefire in less than two weeks.



Arieff, Alexis. “Crisis in the Central African Republic,” CRS Report (Washington DC: May 2014).

Berman, Eric G & Louisa N Lombard. “The Central African Republic and Small Arms.” Small arms survey books. Small Arms Survey (Geneva: 2008).

Ingrestad, Gabrielle. “Willing and Able.” FOI (Sweden: 2010).

N’Diaye, Boubacar. “Security Sector Reform in the Central African Republic”, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (2009),  

“The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation.” Africa Report N°219, International Crisis Group, (Brussels: June  2014) 

“Central African Republic Crisis and its Regional Humanitarian Impact.” OCHA (2014).

“Fast Facts.” United Nations Development Plan (2014).

“MINUSCA,” United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central African Republic.

 “Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic and the activities of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic,” UN Security Council  (New York: December 2007)

“Secretary-General's remarks to the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic,” United Nations (New York: February 2014)

“They Came to Kill: Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic” Human Rights Watch. (2013)

[i] Dacko voluntarily handed over his presidential powers to Kolingba in a peaceful bloodless coup.

[ii] He was ultimately pressured into resigning by regional leaders on 10 January 2014.

[1]  Patassé promoted Sara northerners to the Presidential Guard, while demoting Yakoma’s into the FACA, greatly exacerbating frustration.

[2] Originally MINURCA (established by Security Council resolution 1159 of 27 March 1998) was tasked with this role, which was passed over to BONUCA, established in 2000.

[3] Communal divisions between the people of the Savannah and those living along the river plunged into what the International Crisis Group called a civil war.

[4] The north, which has historically been the target of widespread violence, was virtually abandoned due to poor roads and infrastructure and the peacekeeping forces and the army’s lack of capacity to control these areas.

[5] Selekastands for “Alliance” in Sango.

[6] The UFDR was one of the rebel groups, which had signed a peace agreement with Bozizé prior to the 2011 election. Djotodia, theSeleka, and the UFDR were frustrated at Bozizé’s inability to fulfill promises made in the peace agreements.

[7] Balakas refers to machetes in Sango, therefore the anti-balaka denotes anti-machetes.

[8] Notable amongst these attacks was the one perpetrated on December 5, 2013, which sparked international attention when anti-Balaka forces alongside defected FACA soldiers attacked the Muslim community members of Bangui and Bossangoa and ex-Seleka forces, causing the death and displacement of hundreds.  The Muslim community in Bangui allegedly decreased from over 200,000 to about 2,000 after the violence, and is currently living in a delineated area from the city protected by international forces.

[9] Since his resignation from office, Djotodia has been appointed the head of theSelekaforces.

[10] EUFOR’s mandate ended in 2009 and was replaced by MINURCAT, which was considered to be more locally-owned.  

[11] Various sources include the FOI and the ICI.

[12] This became evident under Bozizé, as he appointed himself Minister of Defence, with his son as Assistant Minister for National Defence, Veterans, War Victims, Disarmament and Army Restructuring. Alongside the two was a concentrated and unchecked security administration of trusted collaborators, dramatically hindering any oversight of the security apparatus.  Since President Samba-Panza took office the job of Defence Minister has been handed back to François Bozizé.

[13] An indication of the dysfunction was that soldiers saluted (or not) officers, including top-ranking officers, according to the faction or ethnicity they were perceived to belong to.” N’Diaye, “Security Sector Reform in the Central African Republic”DCAF, 56.

[14] BONUCA was converted into an integrated mission, BINUCA, in January 2010.

[15] Their scope was considered to be the entire CAR, in addition to border regions.

[16] Maison du Droit aims at enhancing and increasing access to justice for all and in particular for the most vulnerable populations.

[17] The priorities listed in the PRSP pertained to: “supporting access to justice initiatives, assisting with reform of the justice sector, strengthening the independence, impartiality, effectiveness, and transparency of the justice system, promoting Gender and Juvenile Justice, addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and establishing a coordination working group on the rule of law.” “Justice Update, 2013” UNDPKO, 2013.

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.