AfricaFocus (Washington, DC)

23 June 2014

Central African Republic - Still a Forgotten Crisis

Photo: Nicholas Long/IRIN
Bessan, a destroyed village in northwest CAR

"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. ... 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." - International Crisis Group

The phenomenon of "forgotten crises," which find it difficult to attract world attention and funding, is so pervasive that the European Union has an official rating system (Central African Republic is one of the top four, along with Myanmar, Western Sahara, and Chad). In CAR, a UN peacekeeping force, finally approved in April, will not be in place until September. Funding for humanitarian needs, as noted in the excerpt below from a report by the UN's Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is only at 32% of the needs for the year. And, as a new report from International Crisis Group notes, the need is not only for security and humanitarian aid, but also for joint national and international involvement in fundamental issues of reconstructing a collapsed state.

There are obviously no guarantees of success in such endeavors, despite apparent consensus on what needs to be done and the fact that the complicating narrative of "counterterrorism" is not a consideration. But a sure way to guarantee failure and continued crisis is to continue with the pattern of "too little, too late." - Editor's Note

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from newly released reports by OCHA and the International Crisis Group.

For background on the UN mission in CAR, see http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minusca

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Central African Republic, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/car.php

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on peace and security issues, visit http://www.africafocus.org/peaceexp.php

Central African Republic Crisis and its Regional Humanitarian Impact: An overview of needs and requirements

UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (http://unocha.org/)

June 20, 2014

direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/novl7qe

[excerpts only. Full report available at link above is 32 pages.]

Over the past year, the Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced a major political and protection crisis that has affected nearly its entire population. Since the overthrow of the Government by the Seleka rebel movement in March 2013, the northern and western regions of the country have seen intense and unprecedented violence against civilians and minorities. In December 2013, the violence in and around Bangui escalated when the anti-balaka militia attacked the capital and violence ensued between them and the ex-Seleka.

The security situation in CAR continues to deteriorate. With increasingly radical anti-balaka and ex-Seleka rhetoric and violence, as well as renewed spikes in violence along the northern border, tensions are on the rise. There is a real risk the country could be partitioned into two or more areas, controlled by various factions of armed groups.

Growing threats directed at Muslims in west and central parts of the country have led the majority to leave these areas. Compounded by what appears to be an instrumentalization and manipulation of communities by political and commercial leaders, there has been a marked shift from what was seen as opposition between anti-balaka and ex-Seleka at the beginning of the year to serious hostility between self-proclaimed representatives of Christian and Muslim communities. Towns that used to have people of diverse religions have been emptied of their Muslim communities.

Community tensions and sectarian violence are on the rise. Around 20,000 people from minority communities remain trapped in 16 different locations in CAR due to the risk of attack. They are unable to move freely beyond confined neighbourhoods, are unable to maintain jobs, and have limited access to schools, healthcare, etc.

More than a million people - about a quarter of CAR's population, have fled their homes for safety. As of 2 June 2014, 557,000 people remained displaced inside CAR. A quarter of these people are living in Bangui. Since December 2013, some 250,000 people too scared to stay in CAR have fled to at least 14 countries in West and Central Africa. The highest concentration of people has fled to Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (Congo), in that order. Thousands of people continue to escape CAR every week. Many are still hiding in the bush in fear for their lives, surviving on leaves and roots.

Those who have fled are often traumatized, malnourished and dehydrated. Many have walked for weeks and taken refuge in the bush along the way to hide from armed groups. Some have been exposed to atrocities and survived violence. The majority are women and children, as the men in the families often remain in CAR to protect family assets. Many people fleeing CAR have serious medical needs stemming from injuries during attacks or displacement. The rate of malnutrition and infectious disease is high. They find themselves stranded in unfamiliar surroundings with no social or economic support, and are largely dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Many families sheltering those who have fled the violence are also struggling to cope with the added strain of hosting displaced people in their homes. The sudden and large influx of people from CAR has had serious social, economic and security ramifications for neighbouring countries and has strained already limited resources in host countries and communities. Host communities along the border with CAR have been exposed to increased insecurity and in some situations have also been temporarily displaced due to incursions and looting by armed groups from CAR, as has been the case in some border villages in Cameroon.

What stands in the way of responding to these needs?

As of 4 June, the response [to the international humanitarian appeal for] CAR had only received 32% of total financial requirements for 2014 ($565 million), despite pledges of more support. Neighbouring countries affected by the crisis have received even less support - Cameroon: 10% of $117 million; Chad: 15% of $527 million; DRC: 19% of $832 million; Congo: 10% of $14 million.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has been one of the main donors for the response to the CAR crisis and its impact on the region. So far in 2014, close to US$30 million of CERF funding has been allocated to support the humanitarian response in CAR and neighbouring countries, including $20 million to CAR, $4 million to Chad, $4 million to Cameroon and $2 million to Congo. In 2013, the CERF allocated $8 million to meet the needs of CAR refugees arriving in DRC.

The lack of funding to date has severely impeded the response to humanitarian needs. Although there is capacity to respond to the effects of the crisis, the lack of funding has resulted in significant gaps across all sectors.

If more resources are not committed to the CAR crisis, humanitarian partners will be unable to step up their response. Faced with budget constraints, partners have been unable to provide the necessary assistance to people made vulnerable by the crisis. In Cameroon, for example, the inability to provide food assistance where people need it because of lack of resources has forced more people to move into neighbouring countries.

If we fail to protect people in CAR now, people will be further weakened and traumatized, and more lives will be lost. Since May, those arriving in neighbouring countries are in a much worse state than those who fled to the country a few months ago. After weeks of even months of walking through the bush, hiding from armed groups and surviving only on leaves and roots found along the way, they are extremely vulnerable, exhausted, sick and traumatized. In Cameroon, six in 10,000 children under five die every day, a mortality rate well above the emergency threshold.

The CAR Crisis: Thinking Beyond Traditional Peacekeeping

By Thierry Vircoulon and Thibaud Lesueur, 9 June, 2014

http://www.crisisgroup.org/ direct URL to CAR page: http://tinyurl.com/o94e79h

Thierry Vircoulon is Crisis Group's Central Africa Project Director and Thibaud Lesueur the group's Central Africa Analyst. The International Crisis Group has just published a report titled "The Central African Republic Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation".

The crisis that has been occurring in CAR is certainly the most dramatic in its history: more than 600,000 Central Africans are internally displaced or sought refuge in neighbouring countries; according to the United Nations, 1.7 million live in a constant situation of food insecurity and 878,000 need immediate medical assistance; Muslim communities are fleeing Bangui and the western region, subsistence economy no longer exists and the de facto partition of the country, caused by the sectarian violence, is gradually becoming a reality.

Confronting the sick man of Central Africa, the international community recognizes the seriousness of the problem but seems unable to take the appropriate measures. This lack of mobilization results from a deep skepticism fuelled by the series of failed international missions implemented in CAR. Indeed, since 1998, several international peace operations have taken place but they have all failed re-establishing sustainable peace, although they were implemented in a far more favourable context than today. While France is starting to think about withdrawing some of its troops in September, lots of countries are wondering what could be the impact of a new peacekeeping mission.

If this mission, in the manner of former interventions, treats only symptoms of the crisis by providing a temporary security answer, it will likely be a new superficial stabilization mission and will not change anything to the flawed software of Central African governance. However, if this intervention attempts to deal with the real causes of the crisis by improving public governance, reducing predation opportunities and boosting the economy, it will probably not be another mission-for-nothing. For this to happen, the sine qua non condition is a close partnership between the transitional authorities and the international community.

Dealing with causes instead of symptoms

To understand the security crisis that plagues CAR and to fine-tune an appropriate international response, looking back at the past twenty years is essential. Since the end of the 1980's, formal economy has been drastically reduced, foreign companies have gradually left the country and unemployment has become the common fate of most of the population. The economic collapse has dragged down a corrupt and ineffective state: only the NGOs and churches' have been providing social services to the population; territorial security has been delegated to neighbour States, to France and South Africa while donors have been providing funds to pay civil servants' salaries. In addition, the investment budget of the Central African State has only been reduced to what the donors were ready to give.

The ultimate state disintegration and the security crisis that has resulted from it are direct consequences of this governance system. This system has combined an economic predation by both the rulers and the warlords with the silent complacency of the international actors. The disappearance of the resources of the formal economy has been compensated by the illicit economic revenues (diamonds, gold and ivory trafficking, special accounts of the presidency, etc.). This dynamic of state disintegration through predation has enabled the armed groups to expand their territorial and economic sphere of influence.

To quell the ceaseless conflicts in CAR, deploying thousands of blue helmets will not be enough: it will also be essential to create jobs and rebuild the economy and the state. If international actors and Central African authorities do not combine peacekeeping with the fight against illegal trafficking, economic recovery and good governance, they are condemned to repeat the past failures.

A win-win partnership

A new element has emerged since January 2014; the recognition of the structural predation as a pillar of the crisis by both the Central Africans and the international actors. During closed-doors meetings, Catherine Samba Panza, the president of the transition, has asked the international community to commit more in the reconstruction of the political and economic system. Thus, there is a window of opportunity to change simultaneously the CAR governance system and the type of international interventions that have been so far implemented in this country.

Today, CAR needs to improve the financial public management and to reinforce the key state institutions (security and finances). CAR also needs to boost job creating activities and to re-establish control over the artisanal mining sites in order to dry up the financing of armed groups. This will not happen without a win-win partnership between the transitional authorities and the international actors: trust needs to be restored on both sides. Indeed, the government should reform its governance system or it will not get financial and political support from the international actors and the international actors should fulfil their political, financial and security promises or they will not be seen as reliable partners.

The coming peacekeeping mission of the United Nations must broaden its mandate and become the institutional vehicle for such a partnership. These joint efforts are the price to pay for CAR to recover a durable stability. Time has come to leave past errors from behind and to implement new ideas and strategies. The intervention in CAR must be rethought and the model of international interventions, whose limitations are now obvious, should be renewed. The key question is to know if the international organisations and the states trying to solve the CAR crisis will have the political willingness to think out of the box and reinvent a new model of intervention, more demanding in the short-term but more successful in the long-term.

The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation

Africa Report No. 21917 Jun 2014

http://www.crisisgroup.org/ direct URL to CAR page: http://tinyurl.com/o94e79h

The full report is available in French.

Executive Summary and Recommendations

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 selfenrichment. 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 SecretaryGeneral' 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.

Nairobi/Brussels, 17 June 2014

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InFocus

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Bessan, a destroyed village in northwest CAR

International Crisis Group say the country is not only in need of security and humanitarian aid, but also a collective involvement in fundamental issues required for reconstructing ... Read more »