Hot Spot – Central African Republic

JB Shreve
March 8, 2021 4 mins to read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This intelligence brief provides an overview of the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). Patreon supporters can access the podcast deep dive that explores the history and current threats for this global hot spot that could quickly escalate to a global concern. 


The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in a region of the African continent troubled with rampant violence and brutality ever since the colonial era. There are more than 80 different ethnic groups within the CAR borders and three dominant religions (Catholicism 42%, Islam 19%, Protestantism 26%). CAR is one of the least developed countries scoring next to the last out of 189 countries in the 2018 Human Development Index.

France ruled CAR during the colonial era. In 1960 the country secured full independence but a series of coups and cycles of authoritarian rule plagued the country since then. In the mid-1990s, the country experienced an economic collapse. This history of political and economic instability led national institutions to be almost utterly void of credibility or strength. Into that vacuum, rampant corruption and authoritarian rulers have arisen.history of central african republic

Corrupt leaders and religious extremist organizations leveraged this environment to maintain a near-constant tension and civil war atmosphere. International peacekeeping missions, in various forms, have been stationed in the CAR since the mid-1990s.

In 2003 General Francois Bozize overthrew the CAR president, who had been in office since the early 1990s. The capital of Bangui experienced enormous chaos during this period as forces from Sudan and Chad extorted local civilians. Meanwhile, in the northwestern part of the country, the presidential guard unleashed atrocities against the citizenry. This violence resulted in the displacement of more than 100,000 CAR citizens.

central african republic history

The nation reelected Bozize to the presidency in 2005, but the country’s era of violence and near civil war status did not change. That tumultuous state of affairs became more normalized. Across the country, new rebel leaders and warlords began to rise, taking advantage of the divisions in the CAR. Various international organizations and alliances pursued multiple international agreements and peace efforts. Unfortunately, that process had an unintentional consequence of only legitimizing warlords when invited to the various peace negotiations.

In 2013 a coup overthrew Bozize. The coup instigators included several Islamic groups who rose out of the brutal and oppressive conditions in the northwestern part of the CAR. The groups formed a coalition called Seleka (literally translates to coalition or alliance). Following the coup, the new president and former Seleka member Djotodia was incapable of controlling his former Seleka allies. Widespread atrocities spread throughout the country as the CAR drifted into a state of near-total collapse. Rape, looting, and the destruction of entire villages became commonplace. A Christian rebel alliance to counter Seleka, known as the anti-balaka, rose out of the CAR’s northwestern areas. They targeted Muslim communities, and the religious and ethnic conflict escalated to new levels of destruction.

Djotodia resigned from office in early 2014, but the civil war persisted. A Russian-sponsored peace process in 2019 raised hopes for a short time, but today the reality of civil war is as real as it ever was. President Faustin-Archange Touadéra won reelection last month, but 2 out of 3 citizens could not vote due to such widespread insecurity and fighting. Even in the weeks leading up to the elections, the capital city was under attack from rebel forces.

central african republic

This intelligence brief podcast takes a deep dive into the Central African Republic’s history and current status. The aim is to help you understand what is going on in the Central African Republic before the next crisis hits.

Find more of our Intelligence Brief podcast episodes here.