Central African Republic declares state of emergency after armed attacks

  • 21 Jan 2021

Tensions have escalated dramatically in the country since December's controversial presidential polls, with groups opposed to President Faustin Archange Touadera's re-election.

Egyptian commandos of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) patrol on the outskirts of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, on December 25, 2020. ( AFP )

The Central African Republic has announced a 15-day emergency as armed groups tried to blockade the capital Bangui in a bid to topple newly re-elected President Faustin Archange Touadera.

Rebels controlling about two thirds of the perennially volatile nation launched an offensive a week before presidential elections on December 27, trying to blockade Bangui and carrying out several attacks on key national highways.

"The state of emergency has been proclaimed across the national territory for 15 days, starting from midnight (2300 GMT)," presidential spokesman Albert Yaloke Mokpeme said over national radio.

He told AFP the state of emergency would also allow authorities "to make arrests without going through national prosecutors."

Touadera was declared re-elected by the constitutional court on Monday, though two voters out of three did not cast their ballot, mainly due to insecurity in a country caught up in civil war for eight years.

READ MORE: Central African Republic court confirms Touadera’s re-election as president

Unstable governance

Attacks on supply convoys by militia groups and their political allies, including former president Francois Bozize, are risking supplies of food, medicine and resources for services such as hospitals, said Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the UN's mission, known as MINUSCA.

On January 13, the rebels launched two simultaneous attacks on Bangui but were rebuffed by MINUSCA, which has been present in the country since 2014.

"Since the thwarted offensive of the 13th, there haven't been any other attacks, just incidents linked to the curfew," said lieutenant-colonel Abdoulaziz Fall, one of the MINUSCA spokesmen.

The price of some basic commodities has increased by at least 50 percent in some places.

Touadera's government controls only about one-third of the former French colony, with militia groups that emerged from a conflict in 2013 controlling the remainder of the territory.

CAR prosecutors have launched an investigation into former president Bozize, accused by the government of plotting a coup with the help of armed groups ahead of the elections.

Bozize, who denies the allegations, came to power in a coup in 2003 before being overthrown in 2013, after which the country slid into sectarian conflict.

READ MORE: Central African Republic President Touadera wins second term

UN envoy urges 'substantial increase' in peacekeepers

The UN envoy to the Central African Republic, Mankeur Ndiaye, called on the Security Council for a "substantial increase" in peacekeeping operations in the country after the recent deadly attacks.  

The increase must be accompanied by "greater mobility" by the peacekeepers, he added, also referring to serious desertion from the Central African security forces since December.

In short, "we need a strategy to adapt the mandate," Ndiaye said during a videoconference of the Council organised by the African members after a request from the CAR government.

Ndiaye did not specify the number of additional peacekeepers wanted for the MINUSCA mission, which has about 12,000 soldiers and is one of the largest and most costly UN operations in the world.

But a source familiar with the matter said MINUSCA would like 3,000 extra peacekeepers plus drones, attack helicopters and even special forces.

Ndiaye also pushed for an extension of "a few months" to the reinforcement by 300 Rwandan soldiers seconded since December from the peace mission in South Sudan. The reinforcement was planned for two months.

READ MORE: Violence in Central African Republic displaces nearly 60,000 in a week