The Central African Republic (CAR) has been in the midst of an escalating emergency since 5-6 December 2013, when fighting between rival armed groups in the capital, Bangui, left at least 1,000 people dead. Fighting, led by a northeastern coalition of armed militia known as Seleka, initially broke out in CAR in December 2012. The Seleka fighters, the majority of whom are Muslim, then seized power in a coup in Bangui on 24 March 2013 and the coalition leader was installed as CAR’s interim President. After disbanding the Seleka in response to international pressure in September, the short-lived President was eventually removed from office in late 2013 while fighting intensified. In response to ongoing attacks by ex-Seleka fighters against the mostly non-Muslim civilian population, ‘self-defence’ militias known as AntiBalaka have mobilised as the crisis took a turn for the worse.
The humanitarian crisis has worsened significantly in the two months following the violent events on 5-6 December 2013. To date, violence continues to rage in Bangui, where it has so far left 1,200 people dead and 3,000 wounded, and has also spread to other parts of the country, mainly to western and northwestern regions. Various armed groups have targeted not only other combatants, but also civilians based on their Muslim or Christian religion. Against this background, tensions between Christians and Muslims further heightened and inter-civilian fighting, along religious lines, has become widespread.
Resolution 2127 (2013), voted on by the UN Security Council on 5th December 2013, provided a mandate for a 1,600 strong French military contingent (Operation ‘Sangaris’) to disarm the armed groups and protect civilians. The French troops were deployed to CAR on 6-7 December to work alongside the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA) which operates under the same UN mandate.