Following a few months of relative calm, tensions have once again flared up in the Central African Republic. The new wave of violence and insecurity was triggered by the killing of a MINUSCA peacekeeper on October 7 in the capital Bangui. The deteriorating security situation in the capital, Bangui, highlights the fragile peace deal brokered by regional and international partners in Brazzaville in July, and increases concerns that the an election calendar planned for early 2015 may be too aggressive.
It’s easy for the conflict in the Central African Republic to fall off the radar. Indeed, with at least 25 million food insecure people in the Sahel, and massive crises in West Africa, ebola, the Middle East and elsewhere, what’s happening in the CAR barely registers on the international community’s radar. The ongoing suffering in CAR, though, is real and palpable, and even though violence had more or less subsided over the course of the last few months after the Brazzaville peace conference, the recent surge in tensions highlights how quickly violence can be triggered and sweep through communities.
Recently, the head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa Abdoulaye Bathily suggested that even if the current February 2015 timetable for elections can’t be observed, they should be held within a few weeks of that time frame. That will be a tall order. Indeed, the transitional government – with its limited democratic mandate – doesn’t have the strength or authority to support a strong political, social and economic reconstruction. As Veronique Barbelet from ODI points out in a recent piece, “painting a positive picture of fragile situations never ends well.” An arbitrary elections calendar should be eschewed. Instead, focusing on ramping up the UN peacekeeping mission so it’s at full capacity, and ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the population are met, should be the priority. Without security, a genuinely democratic process will elude the CAR, and only create the foundation of dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement for the next crisis to fester.