Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State
Nairobi/Brussels, 13 December 2007: Violence and corruption have turned the Central African Republic (CAR) into a phantom state, but the new EU and UN forces, which aim to contain any spill-over from the Darfur crisis, could help the country emerge from the enduring crisis.
Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the country’s humanitarian and institutional crisis and outlines how the recently approved EU and UN forces (EUFOR and MINURCAT) could help the failing nation get on its feet. The land of 4.2 million inhabitants roughly the size of France lacks any meaningful institutions and is wracked by insurrections and corruption. France has led the initiative to deploy the EU peacekeepers to its north-eastern region, who, if they make use of Paris’s strengths without serving as an international cover for its continued domination, could aid CAR’s much-needed reform process.
“A succession of mutinies and rebellions has produced a permanent crisis”, says Daniela Kroslak, Crisis Group’s Africa Research Director. “Right now, foreign troops mostly contain the violence in the capital, but the north is desperate and destitute”.
CAR’s government gained a measure of legitimacy through free and fair elections only in 1993. Since then, however, the country has plunged into a civil war, and the government has lost control of the security situation. Corruption allows CAR’s leaders to prosper, while repression ensures their impunity. François Bozizé was brought to power in 2003 by France and Chad but has provoked unending rebellion with disastrous humanitarian consequences. Since the summer of 2005 the army, and particularly the Presidential Guard, have committed widespread acts of brutality – at least 100,000 people have fled to forest hideouts, and hundreds of civilians have been executed.
EUFOR carries a heavy post-colonial burden. France, the former colonial power, is both the worst and the best placed to intervene: the worst because of its almost continual past interference since independence and the best because it has the will and means to act. Since Paris will continue to supply most of EUFOR’s muscle, the new arrangement is largely perceived like a change of badge and helmet to give the French military’s role greater international legitimacy. Nevertheless, EUFOR could make an important contribution if it carries forward a reform of the CAR military and is coordinated with a comprehensive strategy to take the country out of its current political, economic and security quagmire.
“This might be the last chance for the CAR to break out of its phantom status before any pretence of its independence and sovereignty disappears in the vicious circle of state failure, violence and growing poverty in which it has been trapped”, says François Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director.
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Giulia Previti (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.