The conflict in Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960, and is one of the least developed countries in the world, coming in at 159 out of 169 in the 2010 Human Development Index.
Situated in the midst of other failed states including Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, it has been seriously affected by other conflicts in the region, with several military and rebel groups spilling over into the country’s borders.
Who is fighting who?
The government of CAR, headed by president Bozizé, is quite weak, and only really has control of the capital, Bangui. Three main rebel groups have been operating in CAR over the last few decades: the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP); the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR); and the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD).
There are also other smaller rebel groups operating in the country, and particularly in the north. The situation is further complicated by a long history of neighbouring militias entering CAR territory, most notably Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which is notorious for brutal attacks against civilians, and is often pursued by the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force (UPDF).
When did it all start?
Without going back too far... In 1960, France granted independence to Oubangui-Chari, which was renamed the Central African Republic. The years following independence were troubled and violent, with military leaders staging coup after coup against one another to take power over the country.
Eventually, after more than 30 years of military rule, the first fair and democratic elections were held. Ange-Felix Patasse was elected president in 1993, but his terms in office were troubled, with several mutinies against him and a series of riots by civil servants and soldiers over the non-payment of salaries. In 2003, Francois Bozizé, backed by the UFDR, took control of Bangui and ousted Patasse.
This coup, as well as an overspill of fighting from the Sudan, sparked a civil war involving the UFDR, who took control of several towns in northern CAR. Fighting between the UFDR and CPJP in northern parts of the country intensified, and Bozizé lost control of parts of the territory. During this fighting, which continued well into 2007, close to 300,000 citizens were displaced.
In 2008, the UFDR and APRD signed a peace agreement with Bozizé’s government, and promised to begin disarming and demobilising rebel fighters. However, the CPJP has remained active, especially in the north of the country where it has been responsible for attacks against the Central African Army, as well as civilians in the region.
Despite peace agreements and cease-fires being signed by most rebel groups in the country, clashes between government forces and rebels continue. The LRA has also led insurgencies into CAR territory, and continues to terrorise much of the area. The Presidential Guard and the Central African Army have also been accused of violations against the citizens of CAR, reportedly burning schools and homes. In January 2011, Bozizé was elected for a second term in office.
Due to the ongoing conflict and years of political instability, the economy of CAR has been adversely affected, and thousands have been displaced. CAR relies heavily on international aid and NGOs for money, and for services which the government fails to provide for its population.