17 June 2014

Central African Republic: The Central African Crisis - From Predation to Stabilisation

Photo: UNHCR/F.Noy
A refugee family walking to see relatives in the Mbile refugee camp.

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Brussels — The crisis that has plagued the Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2012, particularly predation by both authorities and armed groups, has led to the collapse of the state. Under the Seleka, bad governance inherited from former regimes worsened. Its leaders looted state resources and controlled the country's illicit economic networks.

Ending this cycle of predatory rule and moving peacefully to a state that functions and can protect its citizens requires CAR's international partners to prioritise, alongside security, economic revival and the fight against corruption and illegal trafficking. Only a close partnership between the government, UN and other international actors, with foreign advisers working alongside civil servants in key ministries, can address these challenges.

Governance under the short Seleka rule (March-December 2013) was deceptive: the regime proclaimed its positive intentions while, like its predecessors, plundering public funds and abusing power for self-enrichment. Though Seleka fighters were involved in illicit activities even before, once in power the movement asserted control of lucrative trafficking networks (gold, diamond and ivory). Their systematic looting destroyed what was already a phantom state.

Retaliation by anti-balaka fighters against Muslims - the majority of traders are Muslim - aggravated the economic collapse.

The economy fell apart even before the state; yet the current international intervention spearheaded by the G5 (African Union, UN, European Union, the U.S. and France) focuses for the most part on security. Troops are being mobilised, but if a principal cause of the conflict - entrenched predation - is left unaddressed, the international community will repeat the failures of its past interventions. Protecting citizens is important; but so too is rekindling economic activity and improving financial public management to help build an effective public governance system delivering services for all CAR citizens, both Muslim and Christian.

A new UN mission (MINUSCA) will be deployed in September 2014. In addition to its current mandate - protecting civilians, assisting a political transition, supporting humanitarian work and monitoring human rights - it must change the incentive structure for better governance.

It should prioritise rebuilding the economy and public institutions and fighting trafficking. The region and relevant multilateral organisations should be involved too. Targeted sanctions against spoilers in and outside CAR should be embedded in a more comprehensive strategy to revive the economy.

Some politicians with ties to armed groups or who are eying what are for the moment hypothetical presidential elections could resist a tight partnership between the state and international community. But the transitional government's demand for strong international support offers an opportunity to forge such a partnership and adopt the policies essential to both stabilise the country and promote a change of governance.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To define a stabilisation and reconstruction strategy that benefits all sectors of the CAR population

To the transitional government, donors and the G5:

1. Agree on a partnership for the transition that includes:

a) an agreement on co-management of key revenue generating state institutions; strict selection of candidates for top public administration jobs and a rigorous training program for new civil servants;

b) job creation, improved financial public management and the fight against illicit economic networks; and

c) thematic donors groups under the authority of the Secretary-General's special representative (SRSG) to implement this policy.

To create jobs

To the transitional government, the private sector and donors:

2. Launch labour intensive projects to boost the agricultural sector and rehabilitate infrastructure.

3. Identify and support job-creating activities within the private sector.

To fight against state corruption

To the transitional government and donors:

4. Deploy a team of experts to work as counterparts to civil servants, with the power to veto expenditures in the ministries of finance and mines and the main public companies.

5. Reform the tax administration by creating a single tax agency to centralise tax collection.

6. Reinforce financial checks and balances and provide capacity building to civil society organisations to enable them to monitor financial public management.

To fight against the illicit economic networks

To the transitional government:

7. Investigate alleged embezzlement by the two previous governments and request assistance from Interpol, donors and the UN.

To the UN, regional countries, the CAR government and specialised organisations:

8. Reach a consensus on the fight against international trafficking originating from the CAR, and create a cell within MINUSCA to fight against diamonds, gold, ivory trafficking and militarised poaching.

9. Resume control of main gold and diamonds production sites by deploying there international forces and civil servants, and implement the Kimberley Process certification mechanism for diamonds coming from these areas.

To the transitional government, UN and donors:

10. Revive and improve impartiality of the judiciary in Bangui and in cities secured by international forces, by providing technical assistance for the police and the courts.

To create a new administrative elite

To the transitional government and donors:

11. Develop and implement rigorous training programs for new civil servants in the public infrastructures, finances and security sectors.

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