CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Who’s who with guns?

Monday, May 12, 2008
The Central African Republic is striving to turn the page on decades of armed violence linked to mutinies, coups and attempted coups. Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain displaced, many of them unable, or too afraid, to farm their land. This is an overview of the various armed groups, government security forces and international military missions in the country.

L’Armée Populaire pour la restauration de la république et la démocratie – APRD

A rebel group active in the northwest, where it attacked the town of Paoua in January 2006. Led by former army lieutenant Florian Djadder, it is said to enjoy support from former president Ange-Félix Patassé. Most APRD members, thought to number between a few hundred and a thousand, are drawn from Patassé’s presidential guard.
APRD activity in the northwest displaced large numbers of civilians into the bush and prompted vicious reprisals from government troops, who targeted villages suspected of supporting the rebels.

Having long resisted peace overtures from the government, the APRD agreed in March 2008 to join a national process of political dialogue. In the same month the group appointed Jean-Jacques Démafouth, who served as Patassé’s intelligence chief, as its political leader.

In early May, the APRD was reported to be close to signing a peace deal with the government.

Union des forces démocratique pour le rassemblement – UFDR

Active in the northeast and made up largely of the mainly-Muslim Gula ethnic group, it is operationally led by Damane Zacharia, also known as Capt Yao. Its ranks include men who helped President François Bozizé overthrow Patassé in 2003 but subsequently felt disgruntled with the lack of recompense. The group’s leadership said it was fighting to reverse the region’s chronic marginalisation.

In October 2006 the UFDR overran the town of Birao only to be repelled several days later with the help of French paratroopers.

While under arms, the UFDR demanded Bozizé step down or share power. The group signed a peace deal with the government in 2007 and is taking part in a process of national dialogue.

The Front démocratique du people centrafricaine

Rebel group led by Abdoulaye Miskine, real name Martin Koumtamadji. Since Miskine signed a peace accord with the government in 2007, this group has also been involved in the national dialogue process.


Known variously as coupeurs de routes (highwaymen), Zaraguina, or simply bandits, criminal gangs who kill, kidnap for ransom, loot and set fire to homes now pose the greatest threat to civilians in the north.

Their attacks have prompted tens of thousands of people to flee their villages for a precarious life in the bush; have hindered access to fields and markets, reduced imports along key trade routes, especially from Cameroon, and delayed the return of CAR refugees living in neighbouring Chad.

Forces Armées Centrafricaine - FACA

The national army, numbering some 5,000 men, only about half of whom are thought to be on active duty at any one time. International human rights groups have accused FACA of burning hundreds of villages during their operations against rebel groups, although their record improved from mid-2007. As well as being undermanned, the army is under-resourced, poorly trained and under-armed, but it is set to undergo major restructuring under a broad reform of the security sector.

Presidential guard

This special service in charge of presidential security contains some police and gendarmerie personnel, but most are drawn from FACA. The presidential guard was singled out by human rights groups for its brutality, although more recent reports suggest it has improved its record and limited its presence largely to the capital. Training and equipment for those in the presidential guard is significantly better that for those in FACA.

European Force (EUFOR) and the UN Mission in CAR and Chad (MINURCAT)

EUFOR is a European Union force authorised by the UN Security Council to operate in both eastern Chad and northeastern CAR, where it has a mandate to protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian assistance and protect UN personnel. It is expected to number 3,700 troops when it reaches full strength.

MINURCAT is a UN force whose role is training police and improving judicial infrastructure. It is made up of 350 police and military personnel.

The two forces work hand-in-hand and, in CAR, are deployed in the northeastern town of Birao.

CEMAC Multinational Force - FOMUC

Deployed by the Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CEMAC) in 2002 to support the regime of then president Ange-Félix Patassé, it is made up of 380 troops from the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Chad. Funded by the European Commission and France, FOMUC has bases in several parts of the country and patrols main roads. As well as providing security, FOMUC’s role includes helping to restructure the national army to tackle Zaraguina bandits.

Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org