Rebels, rivals, and proxies in the Central African Republic

Supporters of CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera celebrate after the high court confirms his reelection in the capital, Bangui. REUTERS/Antoine Rolland

A bitter war is raging again inside a country that is simultaneously one of the world's richest and poorest — and outside players are part of it.


Last December, the Central African Republic, a landlocked nation of 5 million people that holds vast resources of minerals and precious metals, held a contentious presidential election. It was won by the sitting president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who has held power since 2016.

But before the vote, former CAR strongman François Bozizé returned from exile to run. After a court disqualified him because he faces war crimes charges at home and UN sanctions, an alliance of militias took up arms against the government, with Bozizé's support.

In the weeks since the election, battles have raged between government forces and the coalition of pro-Bozizé militias, which controls vast swathes of the country. In recent days, the rebels have begun cutting off food supply routes to the capital, Bangui.

The back story. Bozizé himself came to power in a coup in 2003 but was toppled a decade later by an alliance of mostly Muslim militias. (Muslims account for about 15 percent of the population, and Christians about half.) After several years of vicious fighting between the remnants of those groups and predominantly Christian warlords loyal to Bozizé, Touadéra was elected president in 2016. In 2019, a peace agreement was signed, but it lasted barely a year until the election drama began late last year.

Outside players are involved. The standoff between the government and the rebels is shot through with high geopolitics, as outside players scramble to fortify their influence over a country rich in diamonds, gold, and other precious minerals.

On the side of the government forces are 13,000 UN peacekeepers as well as soldiers from Rwanda, which has struck natural resource deals with Bangui in recent years, and Russia. The Russian contingent includes several hundred military trainers, but also mercenaries who have provided strong backing to the Touadéra government as part of Moscow's broader push to establish lucrative business and security relationships in Africa.

Meanwhile, the pro-Bozizé rebels appear to enjoy at least tacit backing from Chad, whose well-trained militias have made it something of a regional power broker in recent years as it actively seeks to play a greater role in the continent's security challenges.

Lastly, there is France, the former colonial power, which had troops in CAR as recently as 2016. Paris notionally supports the central government — earlier this month President Emmanuel Macron sent French warplanes roaring over contested villages as a show of force meant to intimidate rebel groups. But Paris is now in the awkward position of supporting a government that won elections marred by bloodshed and which controls only a handful of areas in a country wracked by increasing violence.

This is a humanitarian crisis, and not just for CAR. Despite — or in part because of — its natural resource riches, CAR is one of the poorest countries in Africa, with a per capita GDP of just $510. Years of conflict have left its people perpetually in humanitarian crisis, with as many as 1 million pushed from their homes over the past decade alone, and nearly half the population dependent on foreign assistance.

Now, post-election violence has already forced as many as 100,000 to flee. Many of them are seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Sudan, Chad, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo, some of which are struggling with refugee crises and internal displacements of their own. That's why unrest in the CAR matters for millions of people in one of Africa's most unstable regions.

The longer the conflict drags on — and there are no signs either side is backing down — the worse it will be, not only for the CAR, but for its neighbors too.

Walmart aspires to become a regenerative company – helping to renew people and planet through our business. We are committed to working towards zero emissions across our global operations by 2040. So far, more than 36% of our global electricity is powered through renewable sources. And through Project Gigaton, we have partnered with suppliers to avoid over 416 million metric tons of CO2e since 2017. Read more about our commitment to the planet in our 2021 ESG report.

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

More Show less

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

More Show less

Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

More Show less

13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

More Show less

Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky facts about the Games that have many people on edge.

Today — what's the smallest country (by population) to win a gold medal in a summer Olympics?

More Show less

Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

More Show less

24-year-old Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate recounts how in 2020 she was cropped out of a photo at Davos of her with other white climate activists (like Greta Thunberg) and what it revealed about how people of color and people in developing countries, like those in Africa, are frequently excluded from the climate conversation.

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal