Central African Republic Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

After several years of civil war, democratic elections were held in the Central African Republic, abbreviated as CAF by Abbreviationfinder, in 2016/2017, which despite many deficiencies was approved by international observers. The civilian population has been severely affected by the conflict and few have been punished for the many abuses committed both during and after the civil war. A number of peace agreements have been signed between the government and various rebel groups, but there is a long way to go for a lasting peace and a functioning rule of law. Corruption is a major problem.

The presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2016 after the outside world pressed them to get rid of them (see Current policy). The turnout was relatively low, and the lack of security meant that many residents could not register to vote. Nor did the many Central Africans who moved the country had the opportunity to take part in the elections.

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Citizens generally have limited opportunities to get in touch with their political representatives. There are also major shortcomings in how the elections are organized and the election authority’s staff often lack adequate training. The situation is made more difficult by the state having so little control over large parts of the country.

Formally, citizens can freely form political parties, but party activists risk being exposed to threats and harassment in areas controlled by the various armed groups. Security is highly dependent on the international troops in the country, including the UN force Minusca. In recent years, Russia has sent military advisers (see Current Policy).

Formally, the Central African Republic is a secular state, but religious and sectarian forces reinforce the strong tensions that arose in the wake of the war.

Women are discriminated against in terms of inheritance law and they are underrepresented in public life. Only eleven of the 140 members of the National Assembly are women (see also Social conditions). Various minority groups, not least LGBT people, are also underrepresented in politics.

Even though the worst fights are over, there are still many threats to human security. Criminal violence has replaced the regular civil war. The militias often act as bandit gangs. They rob, kill and rape beyond the view of the weak police and international peacekeepers. Rape is common even in peacetime.

Corruption and sly politics are common in public life.

According to the organization Transparency International index list of perceived corruption in the countries of the world, in 2019, the Central African Republic ended up in 153 of 180 countries, four positions worse than the year before.

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are guaranteed in the constitution but are not fully respected by the state power. Journalists can be prosecuted for various crimes, such as rioting and disobedience to security forces. Self-censorship is therefore common.

There are many indications that in recent years the authorities and holders of power have become increasingly sensitive to criticism.

In 2005, the law was amended so that journalists could no longer be prosecuted, but nevertheless, in the spring of 2015, charges were brought against three journalists for insulting the then President Catherine Samba-Panza.

However, the most serious limitation of press freedom is not state laws and regulations. The arbitrary violence from both security forces and militia threatens journalists’ opportunities to work. Newspaper offices were looted and radio stations destroyed.

Another obstacle to independent journalism is that journalists have low wages and are therefore easy to bribe.

In 2014, a French freelance journalist was killed when she followed the Christian anti-Balaka militia in the Bouar region in the western part of the country to document the violence that was going on there. In the summer of 2018, three Russian journalists were murdered in the country. They were there to investigate whether the private Russian security company Wagner PMC, which has relations with the Russian government, has mercenaries in the Central African Republic.

In June 2019, two French journalists who worked for the AFP news agency were arrested and beaten by police and seized their equipment when they watched a protest organized by a banned opposition organization. They were released after the Central African Justice Minister intervened. He also defended the police’s actions.

In 2019, the Central African Republic ranked 145 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders ranking list of freedom of the press in the countries of the world. The country has slipped further and further down the list since 2013, when it was found at position 65.

For the majority of residents, radio is the most important medium. The country’s only broadcaster is state and usually supports the sitting government.

Printed media have little spread. They are printed and read almost exclusively in the capital Bangui, due to the widespread illiteracy. Also, there is no functioning postal system that can distribute newspapers outside the capital.

Judicial system and legal security

According to the Constitution of 2016, the judiciary should be independent of the authorities, but in practice the government interferes in its work. The courts work poorly, partly because there is no qualified staff. Corruption is widespread within the legal system as it is common for employees not to receive their salaries.

Arbitrary arrests and lengthy detention pending trial pose major problems.

The death penalty is found in the legislation, but is rarely sentenced. In 2002, ex-President André Kolingba was sentenced to death in his absence for a coup attempt in 2001.

According to the UN, the conflict had claimed about 5,000 casualties from the end of 2012 through the summer of 2015. One million people had been forced to flee and many homes had been burned down. Sexual violence was also widespread. Soldiers from the foreign peace forces are also accused of committing sexual abuse of children.

A new special court to deal with cases involving the many abuses committed in the country since 2003 has been established and started its work in the fall of 2018 (see Calendar). countries. Prosecutors should always come from abroad. The Special Court shall cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In September 2014, the ICC announced that it would formally begin to investigate allegations of war crimes in the Central African Republic. ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said both sides of the conflict were guilty of serious crimes such as murder, rape, forced displacement and recruitment of child soldiers. In 2018, Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona and Alfred Yekatom, both of whom had a leading role in the anti-Balaka militia, were arrested and handed over to the ICC (see Calendar).

The ICC is already pursuing a target that includes suspected war crimes in the Central African Republic. In 2009, Congolese opposition leader and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Among other things, Bemba was accused of abuses committed by his forces and government soldiers in the Central African Republic in 2002, when they helped the then president defeat a coup attempt. Bemba was convicted in 2016 of murders and rapes committed by his rebels in the neighboring country to 18 years in prison. He was found guilty of five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The prosecutor had been in prison for 25 years. Bemba, who was Vice-President of Congo-Kinshasa 2003-2006, thus became the person of the highest rank judged by ICC. He was also the first to be convicted of sexual violence in wartime. Bemba appealed against the verdict and was released by the ICC Appellate Unit in June 2018 (see Calendar).

According to UN estimates at the beginning of 2014, there were between 6,000 and 8,000 children in the various armed groups who were forced to commit abuse. In 2015, the government and the armed groups in the country agreed that child soldiers should be released. But how many who have really ended up as soldiers are uncertain. In 2017, the Central African Republic signed a UN convention banning child soldiers from being used. At the same time, reports came that the various armed groups continued to recruit children.



New rebellion in the north

The UDFR occupies several cities in the northeastern part of the country. With the help of French fighter aircraft, the government regains control. At the same time, the People’s Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD) has started an uprising in the northwest. APRD was created by people who were loyal to Patassé, which Bozizé deposited in 2003.


Ex-President Patassé is being convicted of fraud

Former President Ange-Felix Patassé is sentenced in his absence to 20 years of criminal work for fraud.