Negotiating Peace and Justice in the Central African Republic


On January 24, peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) opened in Khartoum. Brokered by the African Union (AU), the dialogue brings together government representatives and 14 armed groups. Difficult negotiations lie ahead, partly because several transitional justice initiatives have already gotten off the ground in recent months.

One of the notable aspects of CAR’s peace process has been the centrality of justice. President Catherine Samba-Panza invited the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch investigations in May 2014, and then supported a parallel plan to establish a hybrid court to carry out prosecutions at the national level. In May 2015, the Bangui National Forum, a reconciliation conference involving CAR’s many armed groups formally recognized that justice would be a pillar of the peace process.

However, translating ideas into action has not been easy. Initially, organizing credible elections and a constitutional referendum in 2015 took precedence over the longer-term goal of restoring law and order. CAR authorities have also struggled to square demands for criminal accountability with the reality of ongoing conflict. Security has deteriorated in the last three years, stretching the capacities of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Under its robust mandate, the mission provides vital support to state-building and transitional justice initiatives in the country, including the Special Criminal Court (SCC).

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