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CRSV: Central African Republic (Ongoing Civil War)

This case note documents the occurrence of sexual violence in violent conflict. It contains explicit mentions of different forms of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

Background of the conflict

The Central African Republic Civil War is an ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR), waged between the government, rebels from the Séléka coalition, and Anti-balaka militias. The conflict began with the formation of a coalition of varied rebel groups called the Séléka coalition, accused the government for not abiding by the peace agreements following the Central Africa Bush War (2004-2007). The coalition captured several towns in 2012, and eventually the capital, Bangui (Kotch 2013). President François Bozizé fled the country (Al Jazeera 2013), following which rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president (Radio France International 2013). Conflict continued between Séléka coalition and militias that opposed them, known as Anti-Balaka.

In September that year, President Djotodia disbanded the Séléka coalition, and resigned in 2014. He was replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza (Radio France 2013), although the conflict continued. In July 2014, the Séléka coalition and Anti Balaka signed a ceasefire (La Voix Del Amerique 2014). By the end of the year, the Central African Republic was de facto partitioned. The Anti-Balaka controlled the South and West, and the Séléka coalition controlled the North and East. In 2016, and later 2020, Faustin-Archange Touadéra was elected President.

This catalyzed the rebel factions, which formed an alliance opposing the election and called itself the Coalition of Patriots for Change. This was coordinated by former President Bozizé. The conflict centres on religious identities – with the Séléka fighters being Muslim and the Anti-Balaka being Christian; on ethnic differences among the Séléka factions; and on historical differences between agriculturalists (mostly Anti-Balaka) and nomadic groups (mostly Séléka; Dear and Swan 2016).

Prevalence of Sexual Violence

The armed groups involved in this conflict committed grave violations against the civilian population, including conflict-related sexual violence (UN Secretary General 2021). There were several instances of forced marriage, too. For example, in Batangafo, families noted that they were afraid they would be pressured to get the women and girls in their community married to the members of these armed groups (UN Secretary General 2021). In May 2021, the Ministry of Justice released 676 prisoners, of whom 59 were reported perpetrators of rape, in order to minimize the COVID-19 contagion.

In Ouham Pende, after a reintegration project was suspended, ex-combatants returned to their armed groups, and there was a resultant increase in sexual violence (UN Secretary General 2021). The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (UN-MINUSCA) documented 240 cases of CRSV, targeting 129 girls, 108 women, and 3 men, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes, and 12 cases of sexual slavery. According to the MSF, sexual violence was constantly on the rise, and that half the survivors knew their attackers (Africanews 2023).

The Tongolo Project identified over 3420 victims of sexual violence (MSF 2021). In 2021, the Working Group on Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements (MARA) on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence documented 587 cases of CRSV, marking a 235 percent increase over 2020, and 211 percent increase over 2019 (UNOCHA 2022).

Basis of the use of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence in the Central African Republic have been used as a means to humiliate women and girls, and in the process, break down the economy and society. Women and girls have been encumbered by the burden of stigmatization and the resultant burdens of shame and guilt, and as a result, they have been afraid or ashamed to return to the fields to work, or to resume other streams of employment.

This has created vicious cycles of poverty (UNOCHA 2022). It was also used to humiliate men by demonstrating their inability to protect their wives and families (UN, 2021). Further, the breakdown of the security sector enabled strategic and opportunistic violence, where reporting and pursuing justice for the violence faced was not possible.

Different forms of sexual assault was used as a deliberate means to intimidate and terrorize civilians by targeting and punishing them. Sexual violence was also used as a form of ethnic erasure by the 'Séléka' coalition fighters, targeting women and girls in the Gbaya ethnic group in every locality that was already under their controlled or they sought to control, particularly among the Gbaya ethnic group.


  1. Africanews (2023). Central African Republic: the invisible scale of intra-family sexual violence.

  2. Al Jazeera. (2013). "CAR rebels 'seize' presidential palace". Al Jazeera.

  3. Dear, P., and Swan, S. H. (2016). "Displaced and forgotten in Central African Republic". Al Jazeera.

  4. Kotch, N. (2013). Zuma joins regional leaders over crisis in Central African Republic, BDay Live.

  5. La Voix Del Amerique (2014). RCA: signature d’un accord de cessez-le-feu à Brazzaville

  6. MSF (2021). CAR: Healing the visible and invisible wounds of sexual violence.

  7. Radio France International (2013). "Centrafrique: Michel Djotodia déclare être le nouveau président de la république centrafricaine" (in French).

  8. Report of the Secretary General to the Security Council (S/2021/312)

  9. United Nations (2021). Central African Republic: Country Briefing.

  10. UNOCHA (2022). Central African Republic: Gender-based Violence: A Scourge with Devastating Consequences.

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