49th Session of the Human Rights Council

28 February - 1st April 2022

ITEM 10 – High-Level Interactive Dialogue on Central African Republic

30th of March 2022

By Amal Bushara / GICJ

Executive Summary

On the 30th of March, the 52nd meeting of the 49th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council took place in Geneva. Ms Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, provided an update on the dire humanitarian situation within the Central African Republic caused by the ongoing civil war. Since the violent takeover of power in 2013, the Central African Republic has been in turmoil. The aftermath of the conflict has seen the signing of multiple peace agreements despite ongoing hostilities and attacks against the civilian population. The High Commissioner highlighted the discriminatory nature of the violence as Muslims are deliberately targeted as revenge for their support of the ousted Seleka militia group. Similarly, conflict related sexual violence remains a huge concern with  Ms Bachelet confirming that all parties to the armed conflict have committed crimes of a sexual nature, even after the latest ceasefire.

Following the High Commissioner’s speech, various experts, state representatives and relevant stakeholders took  the floor to reiterate their commitment to supporting national and international efforts to end the ongoing violence within the CAR. The government was praised for its efforts to support and protect human rights through the appointment of two councils to combat sexual violence in conflict and to promote human rights and good governance. Speakers also noted the importance of transitional justice measures as a means to address large scale and systemic violence within the CAR. Mr Arnaud Djoubaye Abazene, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Central African Republic, reaffirmed that it is only with close collaboration that violence in CAR can be remedied.


In 2012, violence erupted in the Central African Republic after the Seleka, a rebel coalition, accused the government of breaking peace agreements. President Francois Bozize was forcibly removed from office in 2013 by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels. The establishment of a transitional government was then charged with the task of restoring peace. Although  the Seleka had been declared disbanded, a new rebel group known as ex-Seleka continued to carry out violent crimes. By the end of 2013, the issue had worsened as the predominantly Christian anti-Balaka movement retaliated by taking up arms against Muslims. Religious differences between Muslim Séléka fighters and Christian anti-balaka, ethnic differences among ex-Séléka factions, and historical animosity between agriculturalists, who make up the majority of anti-balaka, and nomadic groups, who make up the majority of Séléka fighters, are all sources of tension indeed, but the conflict should not be reduced toa quarel of ethnic indifferences. The struggle for control of diamonds and other resources in the resource-rich country, as well as for influence among regional powers such as Chad, Sudan, and Rwanda, and international powers such as France and Russia, are all equally important factors in the ongoing conflict in CAR.

Years of conflict and instability have wreaked havoc on infrastructure and government institutions, leaving millions of civilians without clean water, health care, or food. Over 1.1 million Central Africans have been forced to flee their homes and over 600,000 people have been displaced within the Central African Republic, with about half a million forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Internally displaced Africans frequently depart without food or water in an attempt to flee violence, travelling for weeks to hide in areas where they have no access to humanitarian aid. Others are fleeing to Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Congo, with smaller numbers escaping to Sudan and South Sudan.

Since the beginning of the conflict over a million children have had their childhoods ripped out from under them. Countless of them have lost loved ones in horrible acts of violence, and many more are suffering the consequences of these acts of violence. Both ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka rebels have subjected girls and women to sexual enslavement and rape. Sexual assault is both a result and a tactic of war in the Central African Republic. Long-term repercussions of sexual assault include disease, injury, unexpected pregnancy, stigma, desertion, and loss of livelihood and access to education.

In February 2019, a peace accord was announced between the government and 14 armed factions. Despite this, the country's security situation remains uncertain. Armed fighting between government troops and a coalition of armed groups in numerous towns prompted an estimated 168,000 children and their families to evacuate their homes in the run-up to and after the general elections in December 2020. More than 720,000 individuals had been displaced across the country by September 2021. Today, an estimated 3.1 million individuals are in need of help due to the combined consequences of violence, COVID-19, fragility as a result of long-standing socio-political, institutional and governance shortcomings, as well as deep-seated perceptions and stereotypes between groups. Despite the pressing needs of families, international attention has been limited, and the humanitarian response has been chronically underfunded. The need for immediate aid is greater than ever; without it, an entire generation will perish. 

Interactive Dialogue

During the high-level dialogue on the Central African Republic, Ms Bachelet praised the country’s efforts to place greater emphasis on human rights. She noted that there had been modest developments in the areas of national justice and the Special Criminal Court but stated that, despite the President's unilateral ceasefire declaration on October 15, 2021, the country's conflict continues to result in serious violations and abuses of human rights by all parties. Several armed factions continue to commit grave human rights violations. Military actions against these organisations by the government's security services, who were purportedly backed up by other armed elements and foreign private contractors, allegedly committed grave human rights abuses. Concluding her statement, the High Commissioner expressed grave concern about the increased number of events involving significant human rights violations and abuses, as well as the rising role of the country's defence forces and allies in such violations. The lack of accountability for such violations of international human rights and humanitarian law opened the path for new cycles of violence to emerge throughout the country. She urged all parties to adhere to the ceasefire agreement signed on October 15, 2021 and asked the government to eliminate violations by its forces and partners, as well as hold all violators and abusers accountable, including armed group leaders and soldiers. Following the High Commissioner’s overview on the grave situation in CAR, prominent experts and relevant stakeholders took to the floor.

Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic, addressed the problem of the upcoming  municipal elections. He urged the international community to assist in the organisation and security of the elections, which must take place within the constitutional deadline. Mr Agbetse emphasised that the required preparations for free, transparent, and peaceful elections must be taken now and include the participation of women , the youth, refugees, and displaced persons. The Republican discussion, which the Head of State pledged their commitment to at the end of 2020, took place in Bangui from March 21 to March 27, 2022. Mr Agbetse urged the Central African Republic's authorities to put the recommendations into action as soon as possible, to continue the dialogue with all actors, including those who did not participate in the Republican dialogue, and to avoid any actions that could revert the country to the levels of chaos and violence seen previously. Finally, the Independent Expert was satisfied that the Central African Republic would emerge victorious from its current precarious condition through dialogue and reasonable political decisions.

Lizabeth Cullity, Deputy Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, discussed the importance of the Mission's Human Rights Division's fact-finding efforts in the Central African Republic. The Central African Republic's government will take office in May 2021. Ms Cullity noted that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic was protecting human rights by combining civilian and military elements. The United Nations provided technical and financial support to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, paving the way for Central Africans to create a shared memory, identify victims, and compensate them. The primary purpose was to strengthen social cohesion now and in the future. While the Mission's assistance allowed the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission to develop its strategy, Ms Cullity expressed concern about the institution's ability to carry out its mandate due to a lack of a long-term budget and delays in obtaining office space and administrative capacity. Ms Cullity reaffirmed the UN’s  commitment to ending impunity, and noted that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic, in collaboration with the UN Country Team, continues to support the Special Criminal Court financially. Ms Cullity concluded by  praising the government's prompt response in a number of cases in which major transgressions were reported.

Speaking on human rights crimes in the Central African Republic, Fernand Mande Djapou, President of the Civil Society Working Group on Transitional Justice, said the situation on the ground had been particularly stressful since the failed coup d'état in December 2020. Armed groups, especially mercenaries, were responsible for these human rights atrocities. These organisations have been responsible for carrying out targeted attacks and extrajudicial executions, as well as enlisting children and restricting people's movements. Mr Djapou highlighted the numerous impediments to moving from one area to another, which make it difficult to obtain justice due to the territory's size. Other issues affecting access to justice included a lack of essential social services such as health and education, all of which impacted people. Anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs also remain an issue. Numerous cases of  enforced disappearances have also been reported, as well as expropriation of land, which has resulted in  people being  forcibly removed from their homes. Mr Djapou emphasised the need for people in this situation to be resettled immediately. 

States, including Norway on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, Egypt, Senegal, France, Venezuela, Luxembourg, China, Sri Lanka, Russian Federation, Benin, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan, the United States, Belgium, United Kingdom, Portugal, Ireland, and Cameroon also spoke during the interactive discussion on the Central African Republic.

They expressed shock over the significant number of recorded cases of gender-based and conflict-related sexual violence, as well as grave abuses against minors and religious minorities. 

State representatives recalled the Central African government's vow to tackle impunity, but also praised the Central African government's efforts to promote social peace, national reconciliation, and restore security and stability across the country. OtherS urged for armed groups to be demobilized and disarmed within a formal framework agreed upon by the international community, in accordance with the Central African Republic's commitments. 

Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) commends the CAR for its efforts in combating violence and human rights abuses and welcomes the guidance of both national and international organisations in ending the ongoing conflict. GICJ would like to thank all participants for their statements and input. There is a pressing need to advance the human rights situation in CAR as illustrated by the High Commissioner’s statement. We therefore urge the Government of the CAR to make progress in implementing the peace agreement and initiating dialogue between all actors involved in the conflict. 

GICJ calls on all parties to facilitate full, safe, immediate, and unhindered access for the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in need, particularly internally displaced persons, throughout the CAR's territory in accordance with relevant international law and humanitarian principles. GICJ further calls on all parties to respect and protect all medical and humanitarian personnel. In light of the increasing use of sexual violence by parties to the conflict, we urge the CAR to stregthen its sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response activities in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2467 (2019), by assisting the parties with activities in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2467 (2019), and by ensuring that risks of sexual and gender-based violence are included in the Mission's data collection, threat analysis, and early warning systems. In doing so, the government must engage with survivors and victims of sexual and gender-based violence  in an ethical manner. 

CAR, Civil War, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Peace Agreement, Women In Conflict, Justice, UN, Human Rights Council, 49th Session, Geneva4JusticeGICJGeneva International Centre For Justice Justice

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