Plagued by successive coups and waves of violent conflict since its independence in 1960, the Central African Republic managed to hold its first peaceful elections in late 2015 and early 2016. Fears of widespread violence proved unfounded. This report focuses on what went right in those elections and how those conditions have not held a year later, allowing violence to return to the country.

Summary

  • The current armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) began in 2012 when rebel groups from the north of the country came together as the Seleka (alliance), launched a coup, seized power, and installed rebel commander Michel Djotodia as head of state in March 2013.
  • Unable to control the spiraling violence, Djotodia resigned in January 2014 and was replaced by transitional president Catherine Samba-Panza.
  • International attention then shifted squarely to elections, which were initially slated for February 2015. Problems with election administration and ongoing instability raised concerns about the possibility of electoral violence.
  • The elections ended up taking place in late 2015 through early 2016 without major violence due to citizen commitment to voting peacefully, the efforts of international actors and domestic civil society, the self-restraint and containment of spoilers, and respect for the transitional term limit. Despite reports of irregularities, CAR citizens and political leaders also accepted the outcomes peacefully.
  • The belief, though, that the successful elections marked a turning point was mis-placed. A year later, CAR continues to experience serious violence in several regions of the country.
  • The international community needs to closely monitor violence and redouble peace-keeping and peacebuilding support for the CAR authorities as the country seeks to implement disarmament, security sector reform, transitional justice, and national reconciliation.

About the Report

This report analyzes what went right during the presidential and legislative elections held in the Central African Republic (CAR) between December 2015 and March 2016 that allowed these elections to transpire peacefully.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Murray is a senior program officer on the Africa Team at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), where she has worked on programs and research in the CAR, Uganda, and Sudan. Fiona Mangan was a senior program officer at USIP from 2012 to 2015, served as USIP’s country representative in CAR in 2016, and is currently director of Justice + Security in Transitions.

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