Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
The Central African Republic is a constitutional republic of 4.2 million inhabitants. The country is governed by a strong executive branch and weak legislative and judicial branches. Former armed forces chief of staff General Francois Bozize seized power in a military coup in 2003. He was later elected president in 2005. National and international observers judged the elections to be generally free and fair despite some irregularities. The government's human rights record improved from previous years but remained generally poor. Reports of the military killing civilians decreased due to a peace agreement and detente between government forces and rebels in the north. Security forces continued to torture, beat, and rape suspects and prisoners. Impunity, particularly military impunity, remained widespread. Despite some improvements, conditions in prisons and detention centers remained harsh and life threatening. The government's use of arbitrary arrest and detention contributed to a large number of detainees. Prolonged pretrial detention, denial of a fair trial, and judicial corruption continued to be problems. The government intimidated and restricted the press on occasion, and in 2009 the government temporarily suspended two newspapers. Freedom of movement improved but remained limited in the north because of actions by security forces, armed bandits, and rebels. Corruption remained a serious problem despite efforts made by the prime minister. Lack of access to government-held information also remained a problem. Societal violence against women, discrimination against women and indigenous people, trafficking in persons, and forced labor occurred.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
To promote democratic principles and effective governance in a secure environment, the priorities of the U.S. Government include reducing corruption and human rights abuses, strengthening government institutions, and improving financial management. These policy goals require increased U.S. engagement with the government, the media, and civil society.
The U.S. Embassy supports the government's efforts to fight corruption, restore peace, and reorganize its security forces, although such efforts are limited. The principal U.S. tools to support such efforts and achieve U.S. democracy goals include military training, designed to yield more professional security forces and respect for human rights, and public diplomacy programs.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
To increase security forces' respect for human rights, the United States sponsored a capacity building seminar with military personnel in 2008 that included leaders of the armed forces and civil society. The U.S. Embassy facilitated training in the United States for armed forces personnel in infantry skills, military resources management, and English instruction, as well as participation in a seminar for the new generation of African military leaders.
U.S. officials hold numerous meetings with the government regarding issues related to human rights protection, press freedom, trafficking in persons, and religious freedom and transparency. To promote transparency in the extractive industries, the U.S. Government has continued developing a partnership with the Ministry of Mines to facilitate the implementation of the Kimberley Process through a two-year property rights promotion project in the southwest of the country. To advance awareness of trafficking in persons and encourage the government to adopt specific laws for fighting trafficking, the U.S. Government made available needed resources to assist a local NGO in conducting a seminar in November 2008 on the new forms of slavery in the country. Major participants in this seminar included local NGOs involved in the promotion of human rights, government officials, and deputies of the National Assembly.
The U.S. Embassy made financial resources available to assist a local private radio station to extend its broadcast to the whole country. The station broadcasts news programs either in Sango or in French, providing crucial information for citizens regarding the need to respect human rights, develop civic pride, and foster good governance. To minimize corruption and promote civic education and responsible media practices, the U.S. Embassy undertook public diplomacy activities featuring a series of events at the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center and sponsored the visit of a U.S. speaker to Bangui to train a selected group of Bangui University students in journalistic best practices.
To further promote human rights, the U.S. Embassy hosted an April 2008 roundtable discussion with government officials and human rights advocates on how to improve the human rights situation in the country. The U.S. Embassy also held several meetings in 2008 with government officials and leaders from civil society representing unions, human rights organizations, and journalism associations in an effort to forge a shared understanding of human rights. Furthermore, during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, the embassy held conferences at Bangui University and several secondary schools to explain the U.S. electoral process. In addition, the U.S. Embassy monitors and reports on the need for and use of the substantial U.S. humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced persons, as well as multilateral assistance through UN agencies.