Four of the country’s five presidents since independence in 1960 have been removed from power through unconstitutional means, and state authority is weak in many parts of the country. Ethnic tensions in the north and the presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an armed group known for its brutal tactics, have added to instability, which has crippled the country for decades and driven people away from their homes.
In light of these deep-seated ills, the United Nations has been supporting the Central African Republic (CAR) for more than a decade. Efforts on the ground are led by the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, BINUCA, a field office of the Department of Political Affairs.
BINUCA operates under a mandate from the Security Council to help consolidate peace, foster national reconciliation, and strengthen democratic institutions, as well as strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights. Since July 2013, BINUCA is headed by Babacar Gaye, a former army general in his home country Senegal and a top UN peacekeeping official.
BINUCA stood by the CAR as much as possible throughout the recent crisis despite the looting of its offices and staff residences and the curtailing of its operations due to insecurity.
Turmoil last broke out when a loose rebel coalition called Séléka – meaning alliance in the local Sango language – overthrew democratically elected President François Bozizé. After seizing large parts of the country in an initial push in December, rebels and the Government reached a cease-fire agreement and other deals in January 2013, in Libreville, Gabon, under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Hopes for a peaceful settlement of hostilities were short-lived, however. The agreements faltered in March, when thousands of rebels flooded the riverside capital Bangui, sending Bozizé into exile and pushing the country into another vicious cycle of violence, looting, sexual violence and other abuses.
After providing logistical and technical assistance to the Libreville agreements, the UN political mission continues to support the CAR. The team on the ground, with backstopping from DPA, works under difficult circumstances in spearheading United Nations efforts in support of longer term stability.
The priorities are to strengthen the political dialogue for the implementation of the Libreville Agreements, to restore security throughout the territory and create a conducive environment for holding credible elections, as well as to ensure the respect of human rights and provide humanitarian assistance.