Since independence from France in 1960, the successive presidents of the CAR – most of whom have gained power through military force – have used their position to further their own interests, rather than providing strong and unifying leadership. Weak political structures, a lack of economic investment in the country’s peripheries and a fragmented civil society have resulted in the emergence of armed groups and alliances, formed along the lines of historic ties or for short-term gain. By moving across society’s divisions, political entrepreneurs can take advantage of numerous strategies by exploiting formal state power, building on the historic roots of armed groups, or vying for the control of economic resources. The current transitional phase has merely rotated elites from one section of influence to the next in the same manner that has been established in the country for decades.
Power in the CAR is heavily concentrated in the hands of the president through a political system inspired by the former coloniser, France. The president appoints the prime minister and can replace the cabinet, making the latter dependent on the president’s favour. The National Assembly is mostly inactive and has very limited means for budgetary oversight. The presidential seat is thus the most influential position in the country.
From colonial times to today, rulers have, with few exceptions, limited their governance and enforcement to the capital. They have never controlled their sovereign territory and, rather than promoting development, political leaders have used the state apparatus for personal enrichment and to offer compensation and positions to those included in their networks. Controlling the state provides exclusive access to resource channels, especially on the international level (aid and business contracts), and guarantees control over economic resources such as the mining sector. The list of embezzlements of government aid is long, and natural resources have provided successive regimes with opportunities to sign lucrative deals.
As state resources have been used to serve private interests, and because there have always been other people eyeing the presidency for themselves, sitting governments have constantly had to fear a violent takeover. These threats could come from outside the capital, but also from within the government. Because the regular armed forces were often remnants of the former regime, governments have deliberately kept them weak and relied instead on parallel structures, such as the presidential guards, which could be newly recruited from the new president’s own ethnic base.
In addition to being predatory, the CAR state can be described as ‘opportunistically negligent’. The ties between the centre and its peripheries are sufficiently weak that, once in power, leaders can ignore their home base. With this disconnection between leaders in the capital and the peripheries, resources and even the forces to stabilise the regime have often come from abroad. The state has been used to take action only against those it perceived as threatening, and even then has often outsourced this to other security actors. Well-known examples are the support to auto-defence groups in the mid-2000s against road robbers in the west and fighting off a rebellion in the north-east through French support in 2006.
Regime and pro-regime security forces have been given free rein to exploit resources and extort people in the peripheries, leading to terrible human rights abuses on a comparable scale to rebel forces, allegedly often singling out Muslims.
Negligence has become a strategy in which state functions that do not affect regime security are abandoned. Teachers and large parts of the army often remained unpaid for months, at times years. Rule is thus marked by a self-imposed limitation of reach, so as not to overstretch the limited means of enforcement, and instead is focused on self-enrichment in a potentially short timeframe. Aspiring leaders have time and again used state negligence as a rallying cry for a change in regime. However, no leader upon seizing power has changed the system of state neglect. In line with this trend, the Interim President, Catherina Samba-Panza (see Box 1.1), and the current transitional government continue to delay the deployment of state functionaries to the provinces, and many regions outside of Bangui have no budget to fulfil their tasks.
Box 1.1 Catherine Samba-Panza
Samba-Panza became the interim, and first female, president of the CAR in January 2014. She studied law in Paris and returned to the country in the 1990s to work for the Allianz group. She also worked with human rights groups – the Association des femmes juristes de Centrafrique (AFJC) and Amnesty International. In 2003, she co-chaired the national dialogue that was organised by Bozizé soon after his coup against Patassé and then presided over the follow-up committee. In May 2013 she became Mayor of Bangui under Djotodia. As interim president she initially received the support of both the Séléka and the Anti-balaka. The international community was confident in her ability to lead the transition until serious corruption allegations were made in October 2014.
With the exception of the 1993 presidential election, the CAR has not witnessed free and fair elections. The short democratic interlude in the 1990s was interrupted by attempted coups in 2001 and 2002, and a successful coup d’état in 2003 against the by then highly unpopular President Patassé. Thus, the role of political parties in national politics remains ambiguous. New parties are created frequently, often as the vehicle for a particular individual to gain power, often through violent coup d’états.
Some of these parties were created to accompany rebel movements. Kwa Na Kwa, the ruling party under Bozizé, for example, was founded for the 2003 coup. Ange-Felix Patassé founded the Mouvement de libération du peuple centrafricain (MLPC) in 1978 in Paris, four years before he (together with Bozizé) unsuccessfully tried to remove President André Kolingba from power by force. Martin Ziguélé, the current leader of the MLPC (see Box 1.2), stands a chance in the forthcoming elections as, compared to other parties, the MLPC has a well-developed party infrastructure throughout the country. During the current transitional phase, the most important oppositional parties (the MLPC and six others) have created a platform – the Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la transition (AFDT). However, parties to the AFDT have so far not managed to agree on one presidential candidate for the forthcoming elections. Under the ten-year rule of Bozizé’s undemocratic regime, and with national and international actors focusing on the role of armed movements, the capacities, support bases and ambitions of the various political parties have become unclear.
Box 1.2 Martin Ziguélé
The MLPC’s Martin Ziguélé is seen as a favourite in the forthcoming presidential elections. As the MLPC’s former number two, Ziguélé held the post of prime minister under President Ange-Felix Patassé (2001–2003). He ran for president in 2005 and 2011, but lost against Bozizé in elections that were clearly rigged. He now presides over the AFDT, a regrouping of seven political parties, including the MLPC, calling for democratic change.
The cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed in Brazzaville in July 2014 again brought military groups into the transitional government, which plays to the advantage of politico-military entrepreneurs at the expense of civilian parties. The current transitional government includes many (former) armed actors – ex-Séléka, Anti-balaka and other rebel leaders – as ministers and advisers. Since anyone, with the exception of members of the transitional government, can register as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections, political entrepreneurs can again take their chances. Former President Bozizé declared his candidacy, for instance, despite being subject to an international arrest warrant. Even civilian parties are linked to and often dependent on armed actors who continue to dominate the country’s political landscape.
The weakness of central state forces has enabled armed groups to evolve as a substitute or in opposition to the government. Most groups operated locally and aimed at economic benefits or economic survival. Some armed groups have been able to establish a larger following in the wake of events such as unfair elections or gross human rights violations by the government by addressing issues such as the socio-economic neglect of their region, lack of political representation, and government mismanagement. Despite the signing of numerous accords over recent decades, such legitimate concerns have never been adequately addressed, let alone resolved. The continued grievances within wide parts of the populace give room for manipulation by mostly opportunistic leaders and militia recruits. The most recent violence resulted from some of these fragmented groups – formed along the lines of historical ties and territorial links – coming together for a short time under the loose umbrellas of the Séléka or the Anti-balaka to collectively pursue their differing objectives.
Originating in north-east Vakaga province, the Séléka alliance was formed in 2012 by Michel Djotodia’s Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) and two breakaway factions of the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) – Moussa Dhaffane’s Convention patriotique du salut du Kodro (CPSK) and Noureddine Adam’s CPJP-fondamentale (see Box 1.3).
The UFDR and CPJP joining forces is one illustration of how alliances in the CAR are opportunistically formed and dissolved. In 2006, the UFDR seized the opportunity created by the lack of state presence in the north-east to take control of the excavation and trade of the region’s resources, mostly diamonds. Between 2007 and 2008, several accords were signed with President Bozizé in which demobilisation of the UFDR was agreed in return for addressing their grievances – lack of roads, health care, education and clean drinking water. However, the government never implemented its side of the deal, thereby perpetuating this rebellion and others.
The UFDR became increasingly dominated by the Gula ethnic group and forced many local ethnic Runga people to leave their usual mining sites when it reached Bria in 2008. Runga miners and citizens then rioted against the UFDR and created the CPJP after moving north to Ndélé. A few years later it became more opportune for the two groups to work together. While the control of diamond mines and trade networks remained a bone of contention between the UFDR and CPJP, the government became a unifying threat to both their interests when in late 2008 state forces attempted to regain control over resources in the eastern diamond areas. In their struggles over resource control, leaders were therefore able to manipulate and recruit from a divided population with unresolved grievances against the government and between each other.
Although Séléka has often been described as a Muslim alliance, and the recent crisis as a conflict between Christians and Muslims, individuals – including many Christian youths – in each locality the alliance took over joined it to take advantage of looting opportunities. From the beginning, Séléka used Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries and sought tactical alliances with other armed groups within the CAR. More and more groups joined the Séléka alliance, not because of a shared religion, but because of the alliance’s increasing success in taking control over the country’s territory between late 2012 and early 2013.
While president, Séléka’s leader Michel Djotodia (see Box 1.3) was able to accommodate some leaders of the rebel groups that had joined the Séléka alliance, but as soon as Chad and France pushed him out of power in January 2014, he lost influence over the briefly-allied commanders. Although often still referred to as (ex-)Séléka, in August 2014 the movement rebranded itself as the Front populaire pour la renaissance de Centrafrique (FPRC). A few months later a further fragmentation occurred when the Front populaire pour le redressement (FPR) was formed. This pattern of frequent splits and realignments may continue – and not only in this camp.
Box 1.3 Michel Djotodia
Djotodia ousted Bozizé on 24 March 2013 to become the CAR’s first Muslim-born president. His rule ended after only ten months, when his Séléka coalition collapsed. Born in 1949 in Vakaga, he studied economics in Soviet Russia in the 1970s and 1980s and, upon his return to the CAR, worked as a civil servant and ran unsuccessfully for parliament twice. In the 1990s, he moved to his ethnic home area around Bria where he got involved in the mining business and married a close relative of Zacharie Damane. When Bozizé seized power in 2003, Djotodia cultivated a relationship with Bozizé’s son and was awarded the consularship of Nyala, Sudan. Together with Damane, in 2006 he founded the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) and was exiled to Benin and soon arrested. After signing a peace agreement with Bozizé, he was released from custody in February 2008. In 2012, together with Damane and Nouredine Adam, he formed the Séléka alliance which successfully toppled Bozizé in March 2013 and installed Djotodia as president. Since his rule ended in January 2014, Djotodia has been living in exile. In April 2015, he signed a peace deal with Bozizé in Nairobi which would allow both of them to return to their country and to power. However, the current President, Catherine Samba-Panza (see Box 1.1), and foreign partners have not recognised the agreement.
For decades, in the absence of state security, locals have taken matters into their own hands and set up auto-defence groups. The main auto-defence groups were formed in the north-central and north-western areas as early as the 1990s to fight the Zaraguina ‘road-cutters’ (robbers) and armed pastoralists. President Bozizé used these self-defence groups to boost his weak regime forces in fighting these security threats. The so-called Anti-balaka groups that emerged in 2013 in response to Séléka violence have their roots in these local vigilante committees.
When Séléka took control of Bangui in March 2013, many ex-members of the Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA) and ex-presidential guards and gendarmes joined the Anti-balaka groups, which could explain increasing levels of coordination between the groups and their improving strategic thought. However, apart from some coordinated attacks, most importantly the one on Bangui on 5 December 2013, the Anti-balaka have remained highly undisciplined and fragmented.
While many people are thankful to the Anti-balaka for removing Séléka from power, there is widespread opposition to their current conduct. Many of the groups have become small-scale, violent bandits, both in the capital Bangui and in rural areas. Although there are a few powerful Anti-balaka leaders, there is growing disconnection between the groups’ leaders and their rank and file, over which they have increasingly less control. Some ex-FACA members who joined the Anti-balaka are demanding to be reintegrated into the army, while others further their political ambitions. The Anti-balaka have now formed the Parti centrafricain pour l’unité et le développement (PCUD), with Patrice Edouard Ngaïssona (see Box 1.4) as one of its leaders.
Box 1.4 Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona
Ngaïssona is a self-proclaimed political coordinator of the Anti-balaka. He started his political career as an official working for the Ministry of Water and Forestry during Patassé’s rule, but was prosecuted and sent to prison for embezzlement. When Bozizé took power in 2003, Ngaïssona was rehabilitated, first as an MP and in February 2013 as Minister of Youth and Sports. When Djotodia seized power a month later he issued an arrest warrant for Ngaïssona for alleged crimes against humanity but did not take him into custody. In November 2014, Ngaïssona proclaimed the dissolution of the Anti-balaka and the formation of a new political party, the PCUD.
The Peulh (or Mbororo), a nomadic cattle-herding people with origins in West Africa, have been a factor in the CAR’s protracted conflicts for many years. Although references to the Peulh suggest homogeneity, there are in fact numerous pastoralist groups that traverse CAR territory. In response to the locally-emerging vigilante groups, many pastoralists armed themselves to defend their livestock. As in other sub-Saharan countries, conflict can erupt between farmers and herders and compensation mechanisms have been used to prevent violence spiralling out of control. However, in the context of the country’s widespread armed conflict, incentives to peacefully negotiate access to water and grazing with unarmed sedentary populations became less pressing and these non-violent mechanisms are no longer seen as providing reliable guarantees.
In addition, a few rebel leaders, such as the notorious Baba Laddé (see Box 1.5), are Peulh. When Séléka was progressing towards Bangui, some of the Peulh rebel leaders aligned with the alliance, which contributed to many citizens’ belief that the Muslim pastoralists supported the Séléka in toto. As a result, the Anti-balaka targeted Peulh camps. Meanwhile, all sides of the conflict trafficked stolen cattle to markets outside the country, notably to Sudan, leaving the pastoralists in a destitute situation and willing to take up arms on different sides. The nomadic pastoralists and their way of life have been part of the CAR for more than a century. However, having never been accepted as full members of CAR society, they have also been a key factor in its history of crises.
Box 1.5 Baba Laddé – ‘Father of the bush’
Mahamat Abdelkadir, the Peulh leader known as Babba Laddé, formed the Chadian FPR rebel movement in 1998. After being detained for 11 months in Chad, he moved abroad, commanding his militia first from Cameroon, then from Nigeria and eventually, following a Chadian offensive in 2008, from the CAR’s north-western areas. Once there he recruited and organised infamous ‘road-cutters’ (robbers) or Zaraguina. As cattle theft was the rebel group’s main source of income, other Peulh groups became their strongest opponents. In 2012, an offensive by the CAR and Chadian governments pushed him further east. However, after negotiations with both governments, for some months Laddé became a Chadian government official while his second-in-command and many of his men joined the Séléka. Following a conflict with the prime minister, Laddé again left Chad until his return in January 2014, when he was given a prefecture for four months. Relieved of this duty, he went into hiding in the CAR, where he was arrested by MINUSCA in December 2014. In January 2015, he was extradited to Chad.
The long-term environment of instability and violence and the absence of judicial structures have resulted in the widespread use of violence to settle personal disputes and vendettas. Mobs ransacked government buildings and Muslim neighbourhoods after Séléka departed, small, violent bandit groups roam the streets of Bangui and rural areas, alleged sorcerers and witches are publicly persecuted, and petty thievery has become common. All these factors contribute to the country’s violent landscape, alongside the more organised armed groups mentioned above.
The CAR lacks large-scale industrial productive activities and, although much of the land is very fertile, it is used mainly for subsistence agriculture. Lucrative resources, especially diamonds and gold, are accessed through fragmented, often illegal, trading networks. Successive governments have focused on controlling the mining and forestry sectors, at the expense of creating a conducive business environment. Cattle are a source of wealth, but also a potential source of conflict.
These dimensions of the CAR’s economy seem to be both a cause and outcome of the violently contested nature of the country’s political marketplace. Cause, in so far as the neglect of promoting productive economic opportunities creates unemployment and frustration that can be readily tapped by the leaders of aspiring armed groups, who promise economic returns to those who join them. Outcome, in so far as the rebel leaders demonstrate no will to change this unproductive, extractive economic system, and continue this trend once in power.
Rather than pushing through economic reforms to take advantage of the country’s potential – fertile land and extractable resources –, the various governments have focused on reaping short-term benefits. The diamond sector has been the most profitable, with political actors developing measures to make quick money from the sector. President Patassé, for example, openly continued his diamond business while in power, using his position to balance the market in his favour. In 2008, President Bozizé launched Operation Closing Gate in which government forces, unannounced and overnight, confiscated diamonds, materials and even private goods from eight of the country’s eleven diamond trading bureaux that were accused of not fulfilling government quotas. Loyal followers and family members controlled the remaining and two newly-created trading bureaux. Some rebel group leaders such as those of the UFDR and CPJP were directly affected and cited the operation as one of their reasons for forming the Séléka alliance a few years later. Nevertheless, upon gaining power, Séléka leader-turned-President Djotodia and his Minister of Mines continued a similar strategy by putting most mines under Séléka control and signing contracts with international firms in which the proceeds remained unaccounted for.
While control of the government is indeed a powerful tool for personal enrichment, non-state actors are also competing for the spoils, often with each other and at times against or by taking over the government. When the Séléka alliance was formed, all eastern mining areas were in their hands and, upon seizing power in Bangui, Séléka groups also invaded the comparatively stable south-western mining areas. When Anti-balaka dislodged ex-Séléka from that area they too tried to control the mines. However, unable to access buying offices or Muslim collectors and traders, some Anti-balaka leaders tried to persuade buying offices to return to the area in exchange for ‘protection service’ fees. Because the space between state and non-state actors engaging in resource extraction remains so fluid, individuals continue their economic engagement throughout the numerous phases of their political or military roles. Economic access in the CAR is thus never centrally regulated and always contested between the different powerbrokers.
Many families – especially in the south-west and parts of the centre-east – rely on artisanal mining to earn a precarious living. The lack of security and a regulated framework, coupled with miners’ lack of capital, means that they are dependent on collectors and buying offices. Collectors are often West Africans who smuggle the diamonds to Cameroon as the diamonds from western CAR are virtually indistinguishable from those of eastern Cameroon. The local diggers lack access to these circles, fuelling dependency and resentment. The current political crisis and the CAR’s suspension from the Kimberley Process between May 2013 and July 2015 have caused a price drop for diamonds of up to 50%, making the situation for diggers even more precarious. Although they are only one of the drivers of conflict, diamonds are a key resource in sustaining militias. In a situation of widespread poverty and perceived discrimination, the promise of economic returns has been a fruitful recruitment strategy for armed groups.
Forging a national identity is not easy in such a vast and sparsely-populated country. In the face of continuous conflict and power struggles, identities are often formed in opposition to other groups rather than around common interests. Rather than providing a counterweight to the largely self-enriching politico-military entrepreneurs, civil society associations can be used by aspiring leaders as stepping stones into the more lucrative political sphere.
A lack of a common civil identity has had repercussions in the current crisis. For example, it contributed to the mostly poor Christian majority labelling their somewhat wealthier Muslim compatriots as ‘foreigners’. Other divides include the north-south divide; one between pastoralists and farmers; between young and older generations; and between Bangui and the peripheries. What fuels these divides seems to be a combination of widely held grievances – political or economic – caused by the winner-takes-all nature of the country’s politics.
The few exceptions to an otherwise poorly developed civil society include religious organisations, churches being one of the most powerful civilian players (see Box 1.6). They play a role in peace and reconciliation, with key religious leaders – both Christian and Muslim – acting as role models during the current crisis. The Archbishop, Imam and Chair of the Evangelist churches formed a national peace committee which was replicated in many towns throughout the country, such as Bangassou, Paoua, Obo and Bossangoa. Mediation boards comprised of religious leaders and civil society representatives sought to convince armed actors and those seeking revenge to refrain from violence by engaging them in dialogue.
Box 1.6 The Bangassou Diocese as a logistical hub
The lack of secure roads, a banking system, mail services and other basic infrastructure means that international agencies rely on the Catholic Church – which has a presence throughout the country – to provide some services. The Diocese of Bangassou, for example, provides office space for NGOs in Bangassou and Obo. The Chinko project, an NGO which aims to combine wildlife conservation, tourism and hunting, is setting up a park and relies on money transfers between the Dioceses to supply its remote camp. The church in Bangui brings the money to the Diocese in Bangassou and a local Muslim trader delivers it to the remote park. In order to deliver aid, the UN Humanitarian Aviation Service uses the Diocese in Bangassou as their kerosene hub. Many of the small planes need to refuel either before they return to Bangui or to proceed further east. On days when planes are landing, the Diocese handles the fuel, drives World Food Programme staff to and from the airstrip, and handles the administration of passengers and the MINUSCA peacekeepers who secure the airstrip.
While national and local mediation boards probably played a key role in preventing larger outbreaks of hostilities in some areas such as Paoua and Bangassou, their track record is not without flaws. All Muslim board members of the Bangassou Committee, which was seen as the model for other regions, collectively resigned in March 2015. Because of its emphasis on ‘forgiveness’, the board was accused of upholding and supporting the status quo, while Muslim citizens sought justice and compensation. Without the creation of firm and equitable security and justice institutions, such mediation boards could risk becoming another means by which impunity is perpetuated.
The few longer-established country-wide organisations, such as the Organisation des femmes centrafricaines (OFCA), and various youth groups have been unable to bridge divides, often including at a local level, where ethnic, economic and religious tensions persist. OFCA local leaders seem to play key political roles – e.g. its chairwoman in Paoua was at the same time the Révolution et Justice (RJ) rebels’ spokesperson for social affairs, and a Muslim board member in Obo also represented local women in the Forum de Bangui.
Young citizens often refer to the chair of their youth organisation as one of the people they turn to with their problems. Other groups, such as those of motorcycle-taxi drivers or truck loaders, at times cooperate to avoid threats from armed groups or to engage in theft as a means of survival. Special interest groups play a somewhat stronger role in the capital, where unions can quickly mobilise demonstrations to address, for example, salary or student stipend arrears.
It is hard to determine the reach and impact of the country’s weak press. With most of the population illiterate, radios have fared somewhat better. Nowadays, however, the national radio station does not broadcast outside the capital because Séléka destroyed the antenna in Bimbo, near Bangui.
Local leaders such as chiefs and headmen are trapped between citizens’ high expectations of the state and its low actual performance. Having had their influence reduced by the French colonial administration – which wanted chiefs as local administrators rather than as traditional authorities – they are left to mediate lower-scale disputes, such as fistfights and conflicts within households, or to engage in dialogue with non-violent cattle groups approaching their territory. Higher-scale crimes, such as killings or serious injury, are referred to government agencies, but often remain unresolved. Threats by armed groups – often originating outside the country’s borders – are beyond the mediation abilities of the chiefs and the defence capabilities of state forces. Auto-defence groups have therefore formed within local communities throughout the country to ward off threats.
The current transitional government has been tasked with steering the country out of crisis via a three-step process: 1) popular consultations throughout the country from January to March 2015; 2) a national forum in Bangui in May 2015; and 3) presidential and parliamentary elections that continue to be delayed.
1) The grassroots popular consultations (consultations populaires à la base), which were organised to collect information and elect participants for the Bangui Forum, were hampered by the distrust felt towards leaders in the capital among citizens in the regions. While teams were sent to all regions, and even abroad, for security reasons some could not access a wide popular base, which in practice meant that Muslims were not always part of the discussions. However, the consultations did reveal a widely-held demand for disarmament and reconciliation. More ambiguous was the call for a heavy deployment of state forces in the peripheries, especially at the borders. Citizens in the north-eastern areas – where the Séléka alliance originated – did not share this demand. Very worrisome was the often-heard narrative that peace should only be made with ‘real’ Central African Muslims, a categorisation that makes it very hard to repatriate Muslims who fled during the conflict. Also, participants expressed heavy distrust of Muslim and nomadic people in most consultations, making it unlikely that state discrimination against Muslims – a factor contributing to the continuous tensions – will be overcome.
2) The international community held high hopes for the national forum in Bangui. Hundreds of local leaders and regional representatives, along with the MLPC and the Rassemblement démocratique centrafricain (RDC) political parties, attended the forum. However, citing irregularities in its preparations and organisation, several key armed actors did not attend, including the Séléka successor, FPRC, and Abdoulaye Miskine’s Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain (FDPC). The participants met in working groups to discuss justice, security, governance and development, and made numerous recommendations: the freeing of child soldiers; disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of armed groups; installation of a Commission of Inquiry into cross-border crimes and a Transitional Justice Court; the recognition of Muslim holidays; and the postponement of the national elections.
While international and national voices expressed many positive reactions towards these outcomes, much will depend on implementation of the recommendations and serious questions remain. Do the signatories representing the armed groups have the authority within their group to implement the recommendations? How can it be ensured that the DDR process will be more successful and lasting than the many former ones (see Chapter 3)? How can the cross-border threats from Chad and Sudan (see Chapter 2) be addressed without their involvement? At this early stage there can only be crystal ball predictions. So far, no signs point towards this forum differing positively from similar national conferences organised during Bozizé’s rule. Rather, violent demonstrations outside the forum point to the deep-rooted animosities among citizens and groups that need a more thorough resolution than a one-week conference can bring about.
3) The date for national elections was rescheduled numerous times, most recently for 18 October 2015, but it is unlikely that this next step in the peace process will take place before the end of the year. Current hold-ups are the lack of census data and incomplete voter registration lists, and the huge number of displaced people within the country and abroad. Only around half of potential voters have been registered, with registration rates in the country’s east (the origin of the crisis) and in the refugee camps (the outcome of the crisis) remaining especially low. The elections are being prepared by the Autorité nationale des élections (ANE) and so far will be funded almost entirely by the European Union (EU). To prevent the embezzlement of election funds, as happened during the fraudulent 2011 elections, the EU is holding back funding until the ANE shows signs that it is capable of holding fair elections. The EU and UN electoral support programme continues to support the electoral process, despite worrying signs such as the recent exclusion of (mostly Muslim) refugees from the voting lists.