The Central African Republic (CAR) reached a new low in its history of coups and instability after March 2013 saw a loose rebel coalition from the mainly Muslim north (including mercenaries from Sudan and Chad), known as Séléka, march south and capture the capital of Bangui, toppling President Francois Bozize. Séléka-leader Djotodia took charge as interim president of a new government and installed himself as the first Muslim leader in a Christian-majority country. He quickly lost control over the patchwork of rebel groups and told the Séléka forces to disband, after which they broke apart and the level of violence increased. For months Séléka rebels resorted to looting, raping and killing. As a reaction, Christian militias or ‘anti-Balaka’ were set up to protect their communities. When these Christian militias joined gunmen loyal to ousted president Bozize and attacked the capital of Bangui on 5 December, a wave of massacres and retaliations was put in motion. In one month more than 1000 people were killed, but in a territory the size of France the exact toll of the escalating violence may never be known. The humanitarian need is huge with hundreds of thousands displaced. CAR’s already weak economic situation before the rebellion has worsened since the coup as donors are resisting aid agreements with Djotodia’s non-democratic government, while the country was suspended by international mineral trade regulators. Since 5 December France has increased its military presence to 1600 troops to support the African Union peacekeepers already on the ground, while President Hollande is putting pressure for a transition to democratic elections to be completed in 2014.

Impact on country risk

Despite the recent intervention, fighting and vicious inter-religious retaliations continue, especially around Bangui airport, where about 100,000 people are taking shelter, and in the northern districts of the capital. Rebels and militias faced with advance MISCA troops (African-led International Support Mission) might take to the bush or to the northern border region, increasing the risk for ambushes of road cargo, humanitarian personnel and mining assets. The inter-religious nature of the violence will make the process of political reconciliation very hard to achieve and could potentially leave CAR more vulnerable to on-going cycles of violence. Therefore, inter-communal atrocities and a vicious political struggle in the 2014 elections could make things worse before they get better. Consequently, CAR’s short-term political risk classification was downgraded from 6 to category 7 and Credendo group went off cover for all short-term and medium/long term transactions.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com