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Making Sense of the Central African Republic

Making Sense of the Central African Republic

Tatiana Carayannis | Louisa Lombard | Roland Marchal | Ned Dalby | Faouzi Kilembe | Ledio Cakaj | Nathaniel Olin | Enrica Picco | Stephen W. Smith | Laurence D. Wohlers


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Lying at the centre of a tumultuous region, the Central African Republic and its turbulent history have often been overlooked. Democracy, in any kind of a meaningful sense, has eluded the country. Since the mid-1990s, army mutinies and serial rebellion in CAR have resulted in two major successful coups. Over the course of these upheavals, the country has become a laboratory for peacebuilding initiatives, hosting a two-decade-long succession of UN and regional peacekeeping, peacebuilding and special political missions. Drawing together the foremost experts on the Central African Republic, this much-needed volume provides the first in-depth analysis of the country’s recent history of rebellion, instability, and international and regional intervention.

'[T]his book is a much-needed contribution to our understanding of the CAR crisis.'
African Affairs

'Bringing together the most prominent experts, this book provides a unique, compelling and definitive analysis of the deeply rooted political crisis in the CAR. With no issue left untouched, it is essential reading for anyone interested in, or dealing with the current conflict.'
Koen Vlassenroot, Ghent University

'This is the essential book on CAR. Tatiana Carayannis and Louisa Lombard have assembled the scholars and analysts who know most about this important but under-researched country, and have produced the authoritative volume on its history, society and politics.'
Alex de Waal, author of Darfur and Advocacy in Conflict

'Carayannis and Lombard definitively depict what Africans call "the heart of the continent" not as a blank spot on colonial maps, nor as an aberrant absence or failure of contemporary national and international governance, but rather as a complex "hive" of geopolitical, cultural and economic rivalries and alliances key to Africa's prosperity and stability in coming decades. It is a boldly executed and timely corrective to much recent media and policy analysis on civil conflict and prospects for sustainable peace in the Central African Republic.'
Rebecca Hardin, University of Michigan

Tatiana Carayannis is deputy director of the Social Science Research Council’s Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum. She also directs the SSRC China-Africa Knowledge Project and is a research director of the LSE-based consortium, the Justice and Security Research Programme. A political scientist and seasoned field researcher, she is widely published on political mobilization and rebel governance, and UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding in Central Africa, particularly the DRC. She co-authored UN Voices: The Struggle for Development and Social Justice (2005) with Thomas G. Weiss, Louis Emmerij, and Richard Jolly, and is currently completing her next book, Pioneers of Peacekeeping: ONUC, 1960-1964. Louisa Lombard is an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University. She has worked in CAR as a field consultant to several international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Small Arms Survey, Refugees International and the World Bank, in addition to her academic research. She is currently finishing two books about the country, one an ethnographic and historical account of the ‘stateless’ east, and the other an anthropological take on war and rebellion over the past decade.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front Cover Front cover
About the Editors ii
Title Page iii
Copyright iv
Contents v
Acknowledgements viii
List of Maps xi
List of abbreviations and acronyms xii
Chronology xix
1 Making Sense of CAR 1
An ‘unfortunate colony’ becomes a ‘failed state’ 3
Thematic overview of the book 11
Conclusion 14
Notes 15
Bibliography 15
2 CAR’s History 17
Precolonial Central Africa 18
France’s cul-de-sac 19
Colonization ‘on the cheap’ 21
Independence in indigence 23
Bokassa’s empire 25
The ‘Barracuda syndrome’ 28
Free elections, no democracy 30
Changing of the guard 33
Regional dominion 35
The Bozizé regime 37
Insurrections in the north 38
Bozizé’s fall, Seleka’s rise to power 41
An international errand of mercy 44
Notes 46
Bibliography 50
3 Being Rich, Being Poor 53
Coercion and spiritual insecurity framing the social sphere 57
Between concession economy and a tax obsessed state 64
Conclusion 72
Notes 73
Bibliography 74
4 Local Dynamics in the Pk5 District of Bangui 76
Pk5 of the colonial period 77
1960 to December 2012 82
Pk5 and the impact of outside events 88
Complexity of the situation of Muslims in Central Africa 91
Pk5 at the centre of the recent crisis 95
Conclusion 98
Notes 100
Bibliography 101
5 The Elite’s Road to Riches in a Poor Country 102
Concessionary politics 103
Timber, CAR’s MVP 104
Petroleum in the north 106
Uranium at Bakouma 108
Customs as a concession 110
A default mode of governance 112
Conclusion 114
Notes 117
Bibliography 121
6 A Multifaceted Business 123
A way of living and a worldview 124
The perks and performance of power 131
The business of rebellion 134
Conclusion 138
Notes 139
Bibliography 140
7 The Autonomous Zone Conundrum 142
Birth of an autonomous zone 145
New tensions among the area’s plural authorities 153
The arrival of rebellion 157
Conclusion 159
Notes 161
Bibliography 163
8 CAR and the Regional (Dis)order 166
Coping with the region (1800-1959) 168
The French neo-colonial order and the Chadian civil war (1960-1990) 172
A dangerous neighbourhood (1990-2003) 175
Patronizing Bangui (2003-2013) 179
Conclusion: external actors and the re-foundation of a Central African polity 187
Notes 190
Bibliography 191
9 Pathologies of Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding in CAR 194
Patassé in peril: from regional to UN peacekeeping 198
BONUCA and FOMUC: peacebuilding during conflict, peacekeeping during war 203
2003-2008: deterioration of the periphery, expansion of international presence 206
Peacebuilding and national dialogue stymied 207
Seleka and the limits of international support 210
The rise and fall of Seleka and increasing destabilization 211
Conclusion 214
Notes 216
Bibliography 217
10 From Being Forgotten to Being Ignored 219
Introduction 219
Off the humanitarian map 220
A window of opportunity for change 226
The time of disillusion 231
Fragile state, fragile response: the Seleka/Anti-Balaka crisis 233
Conclusion: a humanitarian accordion 238
Notes 240
Bibliography 242
11 CAR’s Southern Identity 244
Public authority 247
A shared history of markets, marginalization, and decline 248
CAR and the Congo wars 254
CAR and the politics of international justice 259
Conclusion 262
Notes 263
Bibliography 265
12 In Unclaimed Land 267
The LRA - a background 269
LRA activity in CAR 272
Counter LRA operations - Uganda People’s Defence Force 274
The African Union Mission to counter the LRA 279
US involvement in fighting the LRA 283
Conclusion 286
Notes 287
Bibliography 291
13 A Central African Elite Perspective on the Struggles of the Central African Republic 295
The elites 297
An elite oral history of CAR’s decline 299
A lack of non-governmental institutions 300
A state both predatory and incompetent? 301
A series of accidental presidents and its consequences 302
The unravelling of the elite’s ethos of service and the expanding culture of corruption 303
Presidents and their mistakes (as seen by elites) 304
Dependency: France, Chad, and a dangerous neighbourhood 312
Conclusion 313
Notes 316
Bibliography 318
14 A Concluding Note on the Failure and Future of Peacebuilding in CAR 319
The 2013-2015 ‘Crisis’: A brief history 320
The failures of peacebuilding in CAR 325
The future of peacebuilding in CAR 336
Notes 338
Bibliography 340
About the contributors 342
Index 346
Back Cover Back cover