Conflict in the Central African Republic

France has asked other European nations to aid in their efforts to stop the overwhelming violence taking place in the Central African Republic. The European Union agreed on the creation of a multinational European force of around 400-600 troops tasked with stabilizing the situation in the capital, Bangui, over a six month period. A French contingent of 1,600 troops  joined the African Union and other peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic after a wave of violence swept across Bangui, killing over 700 people  last month. The French soldiers have a UN Security Council mandate to use ‘all necessary measures’ to restore order in the country, which is quickly deteriorating into civil war and genocide.

The Central African Republic, which has endured high rates of political instability throughout the past century, began to suffer from its most recent spate of unrest in March, when a coalition of Islamic groups known collectively as ‘Seleka’ (or ‘the alliance’) ousted Francois Bozize, an ex- army officer who seized the presidency in a 2005 coup and installed the Russian educated ex-civil servant, Michel Djotodia in his place.

Soon after Djotodia’s installment, the Seleka forces ostensibly refused to honor a prior agreement to disarm, and have since spread themselves violently across the majority-Christian country, swelling in number to over 20,000 men, and on occasion forcibly compelling children to join them. Rates of violence have also increased as Christian rebel groups have risen to revenge the looting, rapes, and assaults committed by Seleka, which in turn has sparked multiple retaliations by the two militias – both of whom have been said to have perpetrated war crimes.

Djotodia was recently forced to step down, after failing to quell the inter-religious fighting and replaced by interim president Catherine Samba-Panza, the first woman to be elected president in the Republic.

Many hope interim president Catherine Samba-Panza's installment will help resolve the country’s issues, as she has no affiliation with either the Christian or Muslim militia involved in the conflict.

Concerns are mounting about instability in the region, where the landlocked Central African Republic that has recently seen more than one tenth of its population flee its borders sits tightly between six neighbours, all of whom are mineral rich, and involved in regional conflict.

Light weapons are extremely easy to obtain in the Central African Republic, owing to the glut of arms that appeared following the Arab Spring, and work to destabilize the country’s already precarious position. Additionally, military expenditure rose to 2.6% of GDP in the year to 2013, even though it possess one of the smallest standing armies in the world, with just over 2,150 soldiers.

In the 2013 edition of the Global Peace Index, the Central African Republic declined in peacefulness, following a six year trend that has seen it deteriorate in rank, specifically since 2011. This year, the received the worst possible score for 1 external, and 6 internal indicators, meaning it ranked alongside the world’s ten least peaceful countries, just above North Korea, and a full 16 ranks below neighboring Chad in terms of its overall peacefulness.

Find out more about levels of peace in the Central African Republic, and compare to neighbouring states Sudan, Chad, Cameroon.

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