Too soon
to turn away

Security, Governance and Humanitarian need in the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960 and is one of the least-developed countries in the world. It has endured a succession of coups and decades of misrule and lawlessness. The ethnic and sectarian violence that erupted in March 2013, after a period of hope and relative stability, forced thousands to flee their homes; in January 2014, the United Nations warned of a high risk of genocide. Only the intervention of French troops and an expanded UN peacekeeping force—and the efforts of international humanitarian aid agencies—prevented the Central African Republic from further descending into anarchy and humanitarian catastrophe.

The Central African Republic
Map of regions within the Central African Republic
Timeline of conflict in the Central African Republic Click to expand
  •  436,119

    Number of people displaced within the country, living in fear of violence and human rights violations.

  • More than36,000

    Number of people trapped in seven enclaves, with limited access to basic services and at risk of violence and abuse.

  • Only$129.6m

    of the $613 million proposed for humanitarian aid for 2015—just 21%— has been delivered.

A Forgotten Crisis

By May 2015, the worst of the crisis seemed to be over. But it would be a critical mistake for the international community to be lulled into thinking that stability has returned to the country. The state has collapsed. Armed groups rule the countryside, challenging each other and the shaky Transitional Government based in the capital, Bangui. The national army and police force are under-equipped, lack training and cannot ensure the population’s safety. Needs created by ongoing insecurity continue to outpace humanitarian efforts, and the UN humanitarian appeal for the Central African Republic is dangerously underfunded.

Displacement figures, May 2015
May 2015 Displacement figures of the Central African Republic

Putting the Country Back on the Map

The breakdown of law and order is a matter of life and death in the Central African Republic, and fuels displacement. Nearly 900,000 people—20% of the entire population—remain displaced.

The International Rescue Committee is releasing this report with the intention of refocusing attention on the needs of the Central African people, as well as on the obstacles it and other humanitarian agencies are experiencing in their attempts to help the population.

Key Findings

The report is based on field research in the Central African Republic and draws on surveys and interviews with conflict-affected Central Africans. Additionally, the IRC, with support provided by a Johns Hopkins SAIS research team, has projected what humanitarian need could look like by then end of 2015.The combination of field research and analysis has led to the following key findings:

  • Chronic insecurity, misrule and failed governance are the biggest obstacles to meeting the humanitarian needs of Central Africans.
  • 6,000 Deaths since the conflict began.
  • 12,000 Armed ex-Séléka, currently making up the three factions of the former coalition.
  • 75,000 Estimated number of anti-Balaka members distributed across the country, according to their leaders.
  • 18 Number of aid workers killed between January 2014 and January 2015.
  • Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed, but it is not a long-term solution.
  • 60%

    of school-aged children in CAR suffer from PTSD.

  • 30%

    of Central Africans have access to clean water and even fewer to sanitation.

  • 450,000

    tons of food were lost to pillaging in 2014.

  • The international community should focus on diplomacy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian and development assistance.

The international community cannot afford to wait for ideal conditions to lay the groundwork for the Central African Republic’s future. Now is the time to act on the Bangui Forum’s outcomes.

Issue in Focus Failed state Read more
Issue in Focus Population
at risk
Read more
Issue in Focus Bangui forum,
a roadmap
forward
Read more

Conflict is not new to the Central African Republic; the country has been embedded in decades of governance failure.

There is currently no legitimate authority, which means a near-total absence of public services and infrastructure. Add to that widespread corruption and criminality, involuntary movement of populations, and a sharp economic decline and you have all the markers of a failed state.

The number of conflict-related incidents, and continued lawlessness in general, remains too high to describe conditions as stabilizing. Massive refugee outflows from the Central African Republic also contribute directly to growing instability in the region. This might create fertile terrain for the proliferation of terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram or the Lord’s Resistance Army, the latter of which the humanitarian community has already seen a worrying encroachment in the country.

Map of regions within the Central African Republic
IDP (internally displaced persons) trends: displacement levels rose sharply on the heels of increased conflict, and although decreasing when conflict-related incidents dropped after January 2014, they remain high at over 400,000.

There are 2.7 million people in the Central African Republic in need of humanitarian assistance, but nearly everyone in the country faces serious risks.

  • Women and girls risk rape and other forms of gender-based violence. IRC also found that some women and girls have turned to transactional sex to offset the impact of their loss of livelihoods. Survivors outside of Bangui don’t have access to formal assistance. In 2014, women and girls reported over 1,500 incidents of violence to the IRC.
  • 2.3 million children have been affected by the crisis in 2014. The impact is devastating – they may lose contact with family members and may be the victims of, witness, or even be forced to carry out acts of horrific violence. Some children have missed two or more full years of school.
  • A 6–12-month gap in public health services during the conflict led to an interruption in the vaccination of children, treatment for chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS, and other essential medical services.
  • Harvests have decreased nearly 58% from pre-crisis levels, and livestock levels have declined by 77%. 30% of Central Africans are officially malnourished.
  • 10,000

    About 10,000 children are associated with armed forces.

  • 38%

    of schools have been attacked.

  • 60%

    Over 60% of children suffer from PTSD.

In May 2015, nearly 700 political, religious and traditional leaders as well as parties to the conflict, the private sector, and civil society, gathered to propose a vision for a post-conflict Central African Republic. This was the Bangui Forum. The key adopted proposals focused on:

  • Governance
  • Economic and Social Development
  • Justice and Reconciliation
  • Peace and Security

The dialogue’s outcomes represent the country’s best hope for peace and stability, and an opportunity to arrest the cyclical violence that has plagued the country for decades. The success of this peace dialogue hinges greatly on the implementation of the Pact and an international commitment to supporting the Central African Republic’s new roadmap to the future.

Failing to support it will inevitably lead to new and expensive chapters for both Central Africans and those who endeavor to assist them.

Issue in Focus Failed state Read more

Conflict is not new to the Central African Republic; the country has been embedded in decades of governance failure.

There is currently no legitimate authority, which means a near-total absence of public services and infrastructure. Add to that widespread corruption and criminality, involuntary movement of populations, and a sharp economic decline and you have all the markers of a failed state.

The number of conflict-related incidents, and continued lawlessness in general, remains too high to describe conditions as stabilizing. Massive refugee outflows from the Central African Republic also contribute directly to growing instability in the region. This might create fertile terrain for the proliferation of terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram or the Lord’s Resistance Army, the latter of which the humanitarian community has already seen a worrying encroachment in the country.

Map of regions within the Central African Republic
IDP (internally displaced persons) trends: displacement levels rose sharply on the heels of increased conflict, and although decreasing when conflict-related incidents dropped after January 2014, they remain high at over 400,000.
Issue in Focus Population
at risk
Read more

There are 2.7 million people in the Central African Republic in need of humanitarian assistance, but nearly everyone in the country faces serious risks.

  • Women and girls risk rape and other forms of gender-based violence. IRC also found that some women and girls have turned to transactional sex to offset the impact of their loss of livelihoods. Survivors outside of Bangui don’t have access to formal assistance. In 2014, women and girls reported over 1,500 incidents of violence to the IRC.
  • 2.3 million children have been affected by the crisis in 2014. The impact is devastating – they may lose contact with family members and may be the victims of, witness, or even be forced to carry out acts of horrific violence. Some children have missed two or more full years of school.
  • A 6–12-month gap in public health services during the conflict led to an interruption in the vaccination of children, treatment for chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS, and other essential medical services.
  • Harvests have decreased nearly 58% from pre-crisis levels, and livestock levels have declined by 77%. 30% of Central Africans are officially malnourished.
  • 10,000

    About 10,000 children are associated with armed forces.

  • 59%

    Over half the schools are closed.

  • 60%

    Over 60% of children suffer from PTSD.

Issue in Focus Bangui forum,
a roadmap
forward
Read more

In May 2015, nearly 700 political, religious and traditional leaders as well as parties to the conflict, the private sector, and civil society, gathered to propose a vision for a post-conflict Central African Republic. This was the Bangui Forum. The key adopted proposals focused on:

  • Governance
  • Economic and Social Development
  • Justice and Reconciliation
  • Peace and Security

The dialogue’s outcomes represent the country’s best hope for peace and stability, and an opportunity to arrest the cyclical violence that has plagued the country for decades. The success of this peace dialogue hinges greatly on the implementation of the Pact and an international commitment to supporting the Central African Republic’s new roadmap to the future.

Failing to support it will inevitably lead to new and expensive chapters for both Central Africans and those who endeavor to assist them.

Images from the Conflict Click to view slideshow

Risk

Ongoing conflict-related insecurity, governance failure and displacement pose obstacles that continue to outpace the efforts of aid agencies to meet humanitarian needs. Add to the mix the unpredictability of humanitarian funding commitments, and the situation could prove catastrophic for a country that is already a failed state by many measures, and lead to more costly interventions for the international community in the future.

There is a risk to not investing holistically in the Central African Republic now—to address simultaneously humanitarian need, the root causes of conflict, long-term recovery, peace dividends and sustainable development. The IRC has used a risk model to project what humanitarian need in the Central African Republic could look like in two key areas—food security and shelter—if insecurity persists and funding requirements are not met.

Food insecurity (in terms of estimated number of people in need) Click to expand
no funding low funding mid funding high funding
lessening conflict
1,038,594
to
1,269,392
844,931
to
1,032,693
669,157
to
817,857
499,318
to
612,720
status quo conflict
1,612,700
to
1,971,000
1,317,400
to
1,610,200
1,106,200
to
1,352,000
910,800
to
1,113,200
increasing conflict
2,824,600
to
3,452,200
2,520,700
to
3,080,800
2,348,000
to
2,869,188
2,070,000
to
2,530,000
Shelter Needs (in terms of estimated number of people in need) Click to expand
no funding low funding mid funding high funding
257,000
to
314,200
197,700
to
241,600
131,400
to
160,600
74,900
to
91,600
196,200
to
239,800
227,900
to
278,500
268,400
to
328,000
338,400
to
413,600
350,400
to
428,300
291,000
to
355,600
220,000
to
269,000
163,700
to
200,000
180,000
to
220,000
226,300
to
276,500
266,800
to
326,100
336,800
to
411,700
474,800
to
580,300
415,400
to
507,700
356,000
to
435,100
296,700
to
362,500
162,700
to
198,900
225,100
to
274,500
279,000
to
341,000
353,100
to
431,600

Key Recommendations

Invest in efforts to reduce insecurity, impunity, and violence:

  • Prioritize protection of the vulnerable
  • Extend state authority
  • Adequately support MINUSCA to protect civilians

Create conditions that facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance:

  • Recognize that the Central African Republic remains in crisis
  • Expand humanitarian reach
  • Facilitate the delivery of aid
  • Prioritize investments in areas that most impact people’s lives

Support the establishment of effective, inclusive, and accountable government institutions:

  • Build accountable institutions
  • Strengthen the social contract between citizens and the state

Set the Central African Republic on a path toward sustained recovery and development:

  • Pursue peace
  • Support the development of the May 2015 Republican Pact for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reconstruction
  • Commit to funding recovery