I'll try to give a short introduction to the conflict(s) in CAR as well as a brief background to the ongoing SSR process.
CAR gained independence from France in 1960 and until the early 1990’s political instability, military coups and dictatorial rule characterised the political landscape in the country. For a detailed description of the modern history of the CAR have at look at International Crisis Groups Report Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State
The first multi-party democratic elections were held in 1993 and brought Ange Félix Patassé to power. He failed however to accommodate the interests of the people and in 1996-197 followed several mutinies as the military was unhappy with salary arrears and general conditions for the soldiers. In 1997 the Bangui Accords were signed by the mutineers and the government. The military has been (and still is) heavily involved and closely connected to politics. The attempts to professionalise the armed forces and put them under civilian rule failed and in 2001 the chief of staff Francois Bozizé left the capital and brought with him hundreds of troops from his own ethnic group to launch a rebellion against the regime of the democratically elected president Patassé. In 2003 Bozizé ousted Patassé with the help of deserted soldiers from the the Force Armées Centrafricaines (FACA). After the military coup Bozizé embarked upon a democratisation project which resulted in his victory in the 2005 presidential elections. However the exclusion of former president Patassé from the elections provoked a rebellion in the north. In 2005-2006 the three different rebel groups I mentioned last week, APRD, FDPD and UFDR challenged the government. All rebel leaders had some kind of connection to the former president Patassé and accused Bozizé for exclusionary politics.
In 2008 the the government finally reached a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with all three rebel groups. As a part of the agreement former rebels was to be merged into the FACA. According to the International Crisis Group this has to a large extent been done by giving the former rebels legitimate control over territories they already held instead of actually restructuring the FACA which has provoked the resurgence of new armed groups.
The conflict in CAR is to a large extent elite driven. The former elite (sometimes in exile) have used the legitimate grievances of the population for their own personal means and have transformed self-defence groups (created by people to protect themselves from bandits or the government security forces) into rebel movements. Often the incentives as well as the objectives of the rebel leaders and the low ranking fighters diverge. To understand the complex politics in CAR check out Louisa Lombard's paper Central African Republic: Peacebuilding Without Peace and for more details on the conflict have a look at the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia
As I wrote last week the government has signed a cease fire June this year with the “last” rebel group. As long as there will be no real change in CAR politics there is a large risk that new groups will emerge. Below I’ll try to give a brief background to the ongoing SSR process based on what I know at this point in time. I am sure I will be able to give a more accurate picture once I have settled in Bangui.
France has since independence provided military assistance to CAR although it can hardly be labelled SSR. As early as 1996 SSR was discussed in the CAR: during the National Conversation on Defence it was stated that the current status of the security forces was deeply unsatisfactory and needed to be addressed. For a detailed description of the SSR process in CAR have a look at the chapter written by N’Diaye in this DCAF Yearbook.
Several attempts followed to restructure the security forces: in 1997 following the signing of the Bangui Accords a committee consisting of the government and the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) was established to address the restructuring of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA). Andreas Mehler describes how the focus of these efforts only included state security forces and excluded other security providers. The SSR activities did only involve the restructuring of the FACA and did not address activities related to civilian management and democratic oversight. Between 2000-2007 the United Nations Peace-building Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) supported the government to carry out military reforms to a certain extent.
By the end of October 2007 the government submitted a paper to the donor roundtable in Brussels in which the whole security and justice sector was described as dysfunctional. In the paper the government also acknowledged non-official security forces as being a part of the security sector. In 2008 the UN established the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) replacing BONUCA and in April the same year the government held a national seminar on SSR. A comprehensive SSR process was initiated, for the first time also including the democratic aspect of SSR. With the help from donors like UN, EU, Belgium and France, reforms of the army and gendarmerie; the police; the ministry of finance; the judiciary: and institutions dealing with democratic oversight have been undertaken.
It is this ongoing SSR process that I am going to have a deeper look at when in CAR. This is my last post before I leave so next time you hear from me I’ll be writing from Bangui! Very excited!!!