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Mapping Conflict Motives: Central African Republic

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Not many areas in the Central African Republic are really secure. Although the country is scarcely populated, it is tormented by a multitude of armed actors. These belligerents use their weapons for a diversity of reasons but they have one thing in common: each of them would be a weak opponent for any well-organised state, but then this is exactly what the country lacks.
Firstly, there are three Central African rebel groups with armed men on the ground that exert authority in the areas under their control. The APRD controls two contiguous areas in the Northwestand North of the country. It is an amateurish movement that seems sincere in its assertion that it fights for the security of the region. The APRD is not strong enough to challenge the incumbent government in Bangui. So far it has proven strong enough to survive but it seems to seek a political way out of its struggle.
Another rebel group is the UFDR that operates in the Northeast of the CAR. It has launched a series of surprisingly efficient attacks against some larger town centres in 2006 and 2007, but in 2008 it was the only rebel group that did not clash with the Central African Republic’s army.
The UFDR adheres to the agreements concluded with the CAR government and seems ready to continue its struggle politically. Whether the UFDR’s willingness is caused by war fatigue and a survival reflex, or by the honest hope that its grievances will be answered politically, is not clear. It is clear, however, that the movement has lost a lot of support in the neglected region and that it is even challenged militarily by a number of dissidents.
The third rebel group with a military presence in the CAR is the FDPC. It is by far the weakest of the three and it had been dormant until November 2008. The only reason why it might be stirring again would be to strengthen its bargaining position in the ongoing peace process or simply to disturb it.
Besides rebel activity, the population suffers from aggression by a wide array of other armed actors including their own security services. The FACA has a terrible human rights record and it is not capable of providing security for the population.
Much of the violence is committed by foreigners. From Sudan, each year large groups of heavily armed poachers enter the CAR to plunder its wildlife resources.
From the DRC, the LRA has carried out a violent raid in the Southeast of the CAR for several weeks, resulting in more than 100 abductees. From Chad and Sudan, armed bands of cattle herders cross the country borders to pasture their herds. They have clashed on several occasions with the local population and in their wake armed banditry thrives.
These armed bandits, generally referred to as coupeurs de route or zaraguinas, are probably the biggest security problem of the CAR. They disturb the little traffic that exists in the CAR, including commercial transports. During their armed attacks they often take hostages. Some of the bandits are Central African but many others are from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.
Two different international peacekeeping missions are deployed on CAR territory: MICOPAX and EUFOR. The numbers of both are limited and insufficient to restore security.
The current picture of the CAR looks grim but an increased presence of the state and a reformed national army could solve most of the security problems caused by foreigners. In order to tackle the internal grievances of people from several regions, other measures are required, most of them on the socio-economic level.

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Central African Republic (February 2009)

The CAR is a country most people in Europe know very little of, if anything at all. This is no surprise, since it is almost never covered by the international press. It is not always clear why some countries receive less attention than others. In the case of the CAR, the lack of problems and misery cannot be the reason. In January 2009, more than 5% of its population was still in forced displacement and throughout 2008 half of its prefectures have suffered attacks from armed groups, resulting in one fourth of the population being affected by the violence. Looking wider than the security issue, we find the Central African Republic ranking 178th of the 179 countries included in the Human Development Index of the UNDP.
Although the country is scarcely populated, it is tormented by a multitude of armed actors. These belligerents use their weapons for a diversity of reasons but they have one thing in common: each of them would be a weak opponent for any well-organised state, but then this is exactly what the country lacks.

The web maps

More information on the maps (sources, cartographic accuracy etc.) can be found in the report under the heading: ‘Presentation of the map collection’.

How to use the web maps:

The link below will lead you to a webpage with 11 different maps that can be selected from the drop-down menu on the right side of the screen.

• You can change the level of detail on the maps by zooming in or out. The maps are available at three different scales: 1:7,500,000 (initial view), 1:3,000,000 and 1:1,000,000. To zoom in or out, move the scroll slide (in the bottom left corner) up or down, or just move the mouse wheel up or down. For the sake of clarity some map elements are hidden while viewing at a large scale but revealed when zooming in.
• You can easily navigate through the map by dragging it with the mouse pointer. After a double click, the clicked-on position is displayed at the centre of the map.
• The maps feature an advanced geographical and thematical search function that locates strings of characters.
• When clicking the ‘Overview’ button a useful overview map appears in an extra window at the top left corner of the screen.
• A legend is provided for each map.
• You can also search for data thematically by clicking the ‘Lists’ button. The map will centre on the requested map element and automatically a table will appear with additional information on the map element.
• The same additional information on map elements can be retrieved by clicking on the item directly on the map itself (the mouse pointer should change in a hand first).

Please note that sometimes more than one armed group is present – or more than one violent incident took place – in a specific place. In that case, the symbols representing the different groups or incidents overlap each other on the map, which makes it difficult or impossible to retrieve all information by clicking on the symbols. You can solve that problem by clicking on the ‘Lists’ function on the screen below. In the case of different groups, there will be a little drop- down menu on top of the table where each group has a different list of places. Choose the specific place in each of the lists. In the case of ‘Incidents’, the place name will be listed twice (or more), once for each separate incident.

View the web maps