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SPECPOL STUDY GUIDE MA?ALLAHTopic B: Violence and impunity in Central African RepublicGeneral OverviewHistorical BackgroundCurrent SituationPrevious Actions TakenPossible SolutionsBibliographyI was with my husband in the house. The Seleka came…. They pushed my husband to the ground and two pointed their guns at him. Then four of them rushed at me and pushed me to the ground. Each of the four then raped me. My husband was in the room, but they would not let him move.I have thought about what these men did and justice for myself. I want these men brought to justice and put in prison.–Marie, 30, Bambari, January 2016General OverviewAmongst one of the top ten poorest countries in the world despite its rich uranium reserves, crude oil, gold and other resources such as cobalt, Central African Republic (CAR) has the lowest level of human development. The Central African Republic has had unstable political and military balances since it has gained independence from France in 1960. The country has been dragged into a devastating turmoil in 2013, however, with Muslim rebels under the umbrella of Seleka group seized power in the Central African Republic, which has a Christian majority. Mostly Christian militias, called anti-balaka, rose up to counter the Seleka. After almost a year of social and political unrest, the Seleka handed its power to a temporary government, but violence didn’t cease to exist. Afterwards, country has been partitioned effectively, despite the existence of a UN Peacekeeping Force and a French mission there.In February 2016, a former prime minister and maths professor, Faustin-Archange Touadera, was elected president after a contentious election. He campaigned as a peacemaker and when casting their ballots, many voters expressed their wish for a peaceful environment. Another troubling aspect of the turmoil is the involvement of the United Nations Peacekeeping forces and the French mission, Sangaris. Almost 100 girls in Central African Republic reported they were sexually abused by international peacekeepers and three told UN staff they were tied up, undressed, and forced to have sex with a dog by a French military commander in 2014. Similiar accusations has been made against the French Sangaris forces.The UN peacekeeping mission, Minusca, is widely seen as a failure. Dogged by reports of sexual exploitation and abuse, it is viewed by many in the Central African Republic as either ineffective or biased. Visiting the country in October 2017, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, repeatedly said the troops had no agenda beyond restoring peace. Guterres also criticised those who “use political manipulation to divide communities of different religions”.At the core of the turmoil in the Central African Republic lies the battle of religions, but it’s not that simple. Numerous warlords fight for power and wealth, leaving innocent civilians no other option but to suffer as a result. A United Nations peacekeeping soldier provides security during a food aid delivery in  Central African Republic in April, REUTERSII. Historical Background The Central African Republic is home to about 5 million people. It declared independence from France in 1960, and has since been under the leadership of Presidents or Emperors. Despite rich resources, including gold, timber, diamonds and uranium, it’s among the poorest nations in the world. A coalition of rebels named Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize in March 2013, the latest in a series of coups since the nation gained independence.They accused the President of reneging on a peace deal and demanded that he step down. Months before his ouster, both sides had brokered a deal to form a unity government led by the President.But that deal fell apart as the rebel coalition pushed its way from the north toward the capital of Bangui, seizing towns along the way.Rebels infiltrated the capital in March, sending Bozize fleeing to Cameroon. After the president left, the nation plunged into chaos. Political turmoil raged. Looters hit the main cities. Violence became the order of the day. Aid agencies warned of a humanitarian crisis as fear of the rebels prevented critically injured patients from going to health facilities. An unknown number of people have been killed in remote rural areas that are too risky to access. Others have fled into forests. More than 400,000 people have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations. That’s nearly 10% of the population.Seleka named its commander, Michel Djotodia, as the new leader. He took over and integrated some of the rebel fighters into the army. Political turmoil is nothing new for the Central African Republic. About a decade ago, Bozize led a coup that deposed his predecessor. Though he later won elections in 2005 and 2011, he did not have full control of the nation. Rebel groups ran amok for years, especially in rural areas.Seleka is a predominantly Muslim coalition, and as history has shown over and over, religious loyalties can breed contempt and escalate conflicts.In addition, the conflict has exposed years of marginalization and discrimination against the northern, predominantly Muslim population, the United Nations says. Left uncontrolled, militia groups are uniting along religious lines. Most of the vigilante groups fighting back are Christian, leading to sectarian violence.United Nations officials have warned that the violence between the Christian majority and Muslim minority now in power could lead to genocide.III. Current SituationSince the conflict began five years ago, half of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance and more than a million people have been uprooted by fighting. The crisis in CAR has deepend over the last 12 months. Violence between armed groups, often competing for natural resources in a context of complete lawlessness, has overlapped with long-standing ethnic rivalries and distrust between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority.The situation in the north-west – where fighting is underlined by ethnic rivalry between farmers and cattle herders – is also a growing concern. Thierry Vircoulon, who has conducted research for the NGO Mercy Corps, warns the government should urgently intervene in the region to prevent the escalation of violence ahead of the dry season, when herders move cattle from Cameroon to CAR.Despite 2016 elections, which were mostly peaceful and brought renewed optimism, the government has not done enough to unite the country or condemn violence driven by ethnic rivalry. The humanitarian space has been shrinking rapidly over the past few months, with many areas of the Central African Republic now simply too dangerous to reach, leaving thousands without access to emergency assistance. Even in areas where aid workers can operate, resources are limited.The UN humanitarian appeal for the Central African Republic has received only about ? of the $497m required. An appeal to assist people forced to flee their homes has been less than 10% funded.The Central African Republic is surrounded by countries struggling to emerge from years of conflict. South Sudan, Sudan’s Darfur region, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad are barely stable. Any instability is sure to have ripple effects that’ll be hard to ignore worldwide.The mayhem in the Central African Republic, is so severe that many citizens have sought temporary asylum in a neighboring country, the Democratic Republic of Congo — not exactly a safe refuge itself.The government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra struggles to maintain security and has little presence in areas outside the capital, Bangui, due to the activity of armed groups. The UN peacekeeping force in the country, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), is the only force with the capacity to protect civilians. It has a mandate to use force, but has struggled at times to stop attacks or keep roads open. The force itself has increasingly come under attack.Sexual Violence in the Central African Republic”Armed groups are using rape in a brutal, calculated way to punish and terrorize women and girls,” said Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Every day, survivors live with the devastating aftermath of rape, and the knowledge that their attackers are walking free, perhaps holding positions of power, and to date facing no consequences whatsoever.”Human Rights Watch interviewed 296 survivors of rape and sexual slavery, 52 of them girls at the time of the attacks, as well as government officials, police, medical personnel, United Nations officials, and others.Due to stigma, under-reporting by survivors, and security-related restrictions on research, the full number of sexual violence incidents by armed groups during the conflict is undoubtedly higher.Most of the abuses documented are not only crimes under Central African law, but also constitute war crimes. In some cases, they may constitute crimes against humanity. But to date not a single member of any armed group is known to have been arrested or tried for committing sexual violence.People with Disabilites at Central African RepublicFor people with disabilities, either from before the conflict or due to injuries sustained during attacks, conditions in the internal displacement camps are particularly harsh. Camp residents receive limited aid but people with disabilities, especially those without family members, struggle to get food due to the often chaotic and disorganized nature of food distributions.Access to water and sanitation services, such as latrines and showers, is a daily struggle for people with disabilities in the eastern camps. Without ramps, bars, and other support, some people with physical disabilities must crawl on the ground to enter these areas, exposing them to health risks.Access to the camps is part of the problem. UN agencies and other aid groups are sometimes unable to get supplies to camps due to danger on the roads. The lack of resources presents another problem.V. Possible Solutions Since 2012, extremely serious crimes have been committed in the Central African Republic, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity. They include murders – including some that were politically and ethnically motivated, massive displacement of the population, and the looting and wide-scale burning of villages. The authorities of the Central African Republic are legally obligated to bring those responsible for these serious violations of international law to justice.The Central African judicial system is suffering the consequences of several conflicts that have ravaged the country. It has limited capacity in terms of staff and material resources. The security situation is difficult, particularly for investigating complex crimes involving armed groups that are still active. The creation of a Special Investigation Cell by presidential decree in April 2014 was a major initiative but to operate effectively, this unit needs to be part of a more comprehensive effort.The government of the Central African Republic should identify, register and include in any data collection efforts information on people with disabilities and their needs.The government of the Central African Republic should develop an action plan to include and support people with disabilities in the humanitarian response to the crisis and ensure access to basic services for people with disabilities in internal displacement camps. The United Nations peacekeeping mission needs to keep civilian protection a core priority. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, MINUSCA is already authorized to take all necessary means to protect the civilian population from threat of physical violence and to “implement a mission-wide civilian protection strategy.”The mission should lobby for long term support for the Special Criminal Court, a unique judicial body with national and international judges and prosecutors, mandated to investigate and prosecute grave human rights violations in the country since 2003.That Seleka and anti-balaka leadership should immediately cease attacks on civilians and issue clear, public orders to their respective forces to stop all sexual violence—including harassment and intimidation—in areas under their control.The government of the Central African Republic should issue a public and unambiguous message to Seleka and anti-balaka leadership that it will show zero tolerance for sexual violence and make every effort to bring all perpetrators of sexual violence to account.The government of the Central African Republic should provide free and confidential health and psychosocial services to survivors of sexual violence, including comprehensive post-rape medical care, with support from the United Nations agencies, donor governments, and nongovernmental organizations.The United Nations Security Council should impose targeted sanctions against Seleka and anti-balaka commanders responsible for committing, ordering, or tolerating sexual violence.Bibliography

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