The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation
International Crisis Group
17 June 2014
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.
Read the report here.