Bottom Line: The situation on the ground in the Central African Republic (CAR) has deteriorated to the extent that we can talk about another failed African state, and the descent into chaos continues on the downward spiral as deadly clashes and massacres surge unabated.
Recommendation: The situation began to spiral out of control in June, several months after the coup, and is now reaching a climax that will see either direct international intervention or another failed state in Africa. There can be no progress at this point without the creation of minimal security conditions which can only be accomplished by international forces, while the current African Union forces are ineffective. The conflict threatens security on a regional level, and mercenaries from neighboring Chad and Sudan's Darfur region have joined the fighting.
Analysis: Both urban and rural areas across the CAR have collapsed into violent chaos as a multitude of forces—from residents and former rebels to security forces and vigilante groups. There have been several massacres over the past three weeks, and on 22 November a country-wide curfew was imposed. An estimated 400,000 people are now internally displaced. As of the time of writing, hundreds of people have been killed in the surge in violence. On 18 November, the UN Secretary General called on the UN Security Council to back military action to protect civilians, and there is now talk of transforming the African Union (AU) force into an UN peacekeeping operation. The French are boosting the troop numbers in CAR and the US has pledged $40 million in aid for the 2,500-strong AU forces. One of the worst affected areas is the capital Bangui, where law and order has almost completely collapsed.
In March, a sort of coalition of armed groups called the “Seleka” took power in a coup and that coalition has since fractured to leave CAR run essentially by a roving militias pillaging and terrorizing residents who are taking up arms in self-defense, further feeding into the conflict. The conflict is now taking on sectarian attributes, with the Seleka predominately Muslim and the residents’ vigilante forces largely Christian—who represent the majority. The Seleka’s Michel Djotodia installed himself as the country’s first Muslim leader in the coup.
On 5 December—hours before the UN was set to vote on whether to allow French troops to join the AU peacekeeping force in CAR—heavy, sustained fighting broke on in the capital city, with an onslaught by fighters supporting President Francois Bozize who was ousted in the Seleka coup. As of the time of writing, hundreds of people have been killed since then, and the French have deployed 1,000 ground troops as of 6 December.
Like Mali and Niger, the background to this is another French mining conflict for all intents and purposes. Again, France’s Areva has key interests here. After the conflict in Mali and lucrative kidnappings in Niger, Areva has seen the government of Niger turn on it. Earlier this year, Niger set about auditing Areva’s operations, amid local protests against the company, and now it is seeking to re-negotiate its uranium mining agreement with the French, which expires on 31 December, on more equable terms.
CAR has strategic resources of gold, diamonds and uranium, though the uranium is said to be low grade. French Areva mines uranium in the south-eastern Mbomou region.
In May, the Kimberly Project, a global watchdog to fight the trade in “blood diamonds”, put a ban on CAR diamonds—now the regime is seeking to have the ban lifted, but that is unlikely to happen in the midst of a growing conflict.