Mapping Conflict Motives: Central African RepublicSteven Spittaels & Filip Hilgert, February 2009
Not many areas in the Central African Republic are really secure. Although the country is scarcely populated, it is tormented by a multitude of armed actors. These belligerents use their weapons for a diversity of reasons but they have one thing in common: each of them would be a weak opponent for any well-organised state, but then this is exactly what the country lacks.
Firstly, there are three Central African rebel groups with armed men on the ground that exert authority in the areas under their control. The APRD controls two contiguous areas in the Northwestand North of the country. It is an amateurish movement that seems sincere in its assertion that it fights for the security of the region. The APRD is not strong enough to challenge the incumbent government in Bangui. So far it has proven strong enough to survive but it seems to seek a political way out of its struggle.
Another rebel group is the UFDR that operates in the Northeast of the CAR. It has launched a series of surprisingly efficient attacks against some larger town centres in 2006 and 2007, but in 2008 it was the only rebel group that did not clash with the Central African Republic's army.
The UFDR adheres to the agreements concluded with the CAR government and seems ready to continue its struggle politically. Whether the UFDR's willingness is caused by war fatigue and a survival reflex, or by the honest hope that its grievances will be answered politically, is not clear. It is clear, however, that the movement has lost a lot of support in the neglected region and that it is even challenged militarily by a number of dissidents.
The third rebel group with a military presence in the CAR is the FDPC. It is by far the weakest of the three and it had been dormant until November 2008. The only reason why it might be stirring again would be to strengthen its bargaining position in the ongoing peace process or simply to disturb it.
Besides rebel activity, the population suffers from aggression by a wide array of other armed actors including their own security services. The FACA has a terrible human rights record and it is not capable of providing security for the population.
Much of the violence is committed by foreigners. From Sudan, each year large groups of heavily armed poachers enter the CAR to plunder its wildlife resources.
From the DRC, the LRA has carried out a violent raid in the Southeast of the CAR for several weeks, resulting in more than 100 abductees. From Chad and Sudan, armed bands of cattle herders cross the country borders to pasture their herds. They have clashed on several occasions with the local population and in their wake armed banditry thrives.
These armed bandits, generally referred to as coupeurs de route or zaraguinas, are probably the biggest security problem of the CAR. They disturb the little traffic that exists in the CAR, including commercial transports. During their armed attacks they often take hostages. Some of the bandits are Central African but many others are from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.
Two different international peacekeeping missions are deployed on CAR territory: MICOPAX and EUFOR. The numbers of both are limited and insufficient to restore security.
The current picture of the CAR looks grim but an increased presence of the state and a reformed national army could solve most of the security problems caused by foreigners. In order to tackle the internal grievances of people from several regions, other measures are required, most of them on the socio-economic level.