Since gaining independence in 1960, CAR has experienced decades of violence and instability. An insurgency led by the Seleka (or “alliance” in Sango)—a coalition of armed, primarily Muslim groups—has resulted in the severe deterioration of the country’s security infrastructure and heightened ethnic tensions. Seleka fighters launched an offensive against the CAR government in December 2012, and both seized the capital city of Bangui and staged a coup in March 2013. In response to brutality by Seleka forces, “anti-balaka” (meaning “invincible” in Sango) coalitions of Christian fighters formed to carry out reprisal violence against Seleka fighters, adding an element of religious animosity to the violence that had previously been absent.
In September 2013, anti-balaka forces began committing widespread revenge attacks against mostly Muslims civilians, displacing tens of thousands of people to Seleka-controlled areas in the north. Seleka forces were disbanded by the government shortly after revenge attacks began, but many ex-Seleka members started committing counterattacks, plunging CAR into a chaotic state of violence and an ensuing humanitarian crisis. Since the outbreak of renewed conflict in 2013, thousands of people have been killed and nearly 575,000 refugees have been displaced, the majority of whom fled to neighboring Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite optimism after the election of President Faustin Archange Touadera in the spring of 2016, the crisis only intensified. A de facto territorial partition led to a pause in Muslim-Christian fighting, but fighting between factions of the ex-Seleka has grown. Though the government maintains control of Bangui, most armed groups have boycotted President Touadera’s attempts to calm the region through disarmament, leaving the government powerless outside the capital. Lawlessness in the rest of the country has allowed armed groups to thrive and fighting has increased in the central, western, and eastern provinces. The conflict has also wreaked havoc on the economy, crippling the private sector and leaving nearly 75 percent of the country’s population in poverty.
Reports by human rights groups and UN agencies suggest that crimes committed by both ex-Seleka forces and anti-balaka groups amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Due to the scale of the crisis, the UN Security Council established a peacekeeping force in April 2014 that incorporated African Union and French forces that had been deployed to CAR previously. MINUSCA was established, with a mandate to protect civilians and disarm militia groups, and currently has nearly fifteen thousand peacekeepers operating inside CAR. MINUSCA faces significant challenges in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians and dismantle armed groups, primarily due to lack of infrastructure and reluctance to use military force. Numerous attacks have also been carried out against UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers; fifteen peacekeepers were killed in CAR in 2017 and six peacekeepers have been killed in attacks by various armed groups in 2018.
The UN has several decades of history in CAR engagement missions, both peacekeeping and political. The first such mission was the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) (from the French name, Mission des Nations Unies en République Centrafricaine). It was established by UNSCR 1159(1998) as a 1350-troop force. After two peaceful elections, it was replaced in 2000 with the UN Peace-Building Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA).
|In March 2013, a rebel Muslim coalition known as the Séléka (“coalition”) upset the government. Conflict escalated between the Séléka and a predominantly Christian movement known as the “anti-Balaka” (“anti-machete”).
In 2007, BONUCA was still in CAR when the UN authorized a multidimensional mission called the UNMission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). MINURCAT’s mandate was in response to the ongoing violence in Darfur (a state of affairs that also led to the establishment of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, or UNAMID). Given the estimated 230,000 Darfur refugees flowing into eastern Chad and north-eastern CAR, and the corresponding cross-border attacks by armed Sudanese rebel groups, a European Union (EU) force was swiftly put in place (the EUFOR Chad/CAR) to serve as a “bridge” until MINURCAT was fully operationalized. EUFOR Chad/CAR, which was comprised of approximately 3,000 soldiers, operated from 2007 until March 2009. At that point, the MINURCAT force of less than 500 police and military personnel were in place in both Chad and CAR. At the same time, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), another political mission, replaced BONUCA. In 2010, the UN did not reauthorize MINURCAT, leaving the political mission, BINUCA, to operate alone in CAR.
UNSCR 2121(2013) strengthened BINUCA’s mandate, but it was not able to deter or mitigate the ongoing violence. By December 2013, the situation devolved to the point that the UN authorized an African-led Mission Internationale de Soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite Africaine, or MISCA (also known as “International Support Mission in the CAR”) with UNSCR 2127(2013). Near-simultaneously, the French deployed troops in Operation Sangaris. In July 2014, mediation efforts supported by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) resulted in the signing of the Brazzaville Cease-fire Agreement. In September 2014, MINUSCA was established with UNSCR 2149(2014).
These products are the results of academic research and intended for general information and awareness only. They include the best information publicly available at the time of publication. Routine efforts are made to update the materials; however, readers are encouraged to check the specific mission sites at https://minusca.unmissions.org/en or https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/minusca.
Central African Republic Country Profile
United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)