Inside Story

Is CAR on the brink of collapse?

A wave of violence is sweeping the Central African Republic five months after rebels seized power in a coup.

Last Modified: 05 Sep 2013 10:06
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Humanitarian groups say the Central African Republic (CAR) is teetering on the brink of collapse after rebels seized power in March.

There is growing international concern that the latest coup has unleashed a wave of violence that the new president is unable to control.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia seized power in March, heading an alliance of rebel groups called Seleka.

Leaders of the Central Africa regional bloc recognised Djotodia as transitional head of the CAR in April, but stopped short of embracing him as president, expressing concern about him taking power by force.

... Now the situation is about our army, who is not really playing the role of protecting the population .... When the military is not well-managed then they [stop] working and the population is abandoned to itself. [This] is the situation we are living today ....

Lea Koyassoum Doumta, the vice president of CAR's Parliament of Transition

Human rights groups are now accusing warlords in his rebel coalition of widespread looting, torture and summary executions. They say rebel fighters are raiding villages and plundering schools, hospitals and government buildings.

The UN says the entire population has been affected by the crisis.

A third of the 4.6 million population has been displaced and 1.6 million people are said to be in need of food.

But many donor nations are reported to be turning their back on the country and it remains suspended from the African Union.

Two main figures have been at the heart of CAR's recent unrest. 

Francois Bozize seized power in March 2003 from the elected president Ange-Felix Patasse. A former rebel leader himself, Bozize ruled for 10 years, presenting himself as a 'builder' and 'patriot'. But the Seleka alliance of rebel groups accused him of failing to honour peace accords signed in 2007.

Bozize was removed by Djotodia, who was a civil servant under Patasse.

He was sworn in as president last month, after rebels overran the country. But critics say he has been unable to control the groups he now leads.

CAR's ongoing crises moved the European Commission's humanitarian arm to describe the country as being in a state of "forgotten crisis". And there are warnings that the growing humanitarian, security, social and economic turmoil risks transforming the country into a failed state.

So what is the international community doing to help stabilise the country, and stem an escalating wave of violence sweeping the nation? And who is now in charge of the country's security?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Mahamane Cisse-Gouro, the acting head of the Africa branch of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Lea Koyassoum Doumta, the vice president of CAR's Parliament of Transition, and Thierry Vircoulon, the Central Africa Project director for the International Crisis Group.

"The security situation in Bangui is really bad and the coup happened five months ago, so we can say ... [those] five months have been wasted .... There is no rule of law and public order is completely gone, because the state security forces are vanished, [the] police and the army are gone ...."

Thierry Vircoulon, from the International Crisis Group


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