The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
Challenges: During the past two decades, the Central African Republic (CAR) has suffered instability, conflict, and violence. In the wake of the violence, national government institutions, public order, and the rule of law collapsed, government facilities and records were looted and often destroyed, and perpetrators of numerous crimes and human rights abuses operated – and continue to operate – with impunity. Thousands of people have been brutally killed and close to 700,000 Central Africans are internally displaced while 615,000 have taken refuge in neighboring countries.
The lack of a sizeable police and gendarmerie presence in cities and areas outside of Bangui fosters conditions that allow armed groups to retain control of cities and towns and to continue to operate and terrorize local communities. The government currently only controls 25 percent of the country with the rest under armed groups control. Strengthening governance, security, and the rule of law in CAR will contribute to regional stability by supporting CAR and its neighbors like Chad and Cameroon to resist the influence of extremist groups like Boko Haram.
Goals: The United States government reopened its Embassy in Bangui in September 2014 and took a lead role in supporting the negotiations for a peace agreement and the transition to a democratically elected government. In early 2014, the Bureau for African Affairs and INL agreed to prioritize immediate security and justice assistance to CAR.
As the international lead for civilian security sector reform, INL’s strategy is to rebuild and increase the capabilities of CAR’s law enforcement, justice, and penitentiary systems to improve security, combat impunity, ensure justice, and expand governance in a humane and accountable manner. Since 2014, INL has dedicated more than $41 million in funding to re-establish and build the capacity of CAR’s criminal justice, security, and corrections institutions. INL’s program assists CAR’s central government in expanding governance to and stabilizing the provinces. INL supports President Touadéra’s administration in re-establishing CAR’s criminal justice institutions and strengthening the rule of law through the provision of training, mentoring, technical assistance, and basic equipment. INL collaborates with the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission to the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the European Union, France, and other international actors to further rule of law, re-establishment of criminal justice, reassertion of government authority, and reform of CAR’s security sector.
- On February 8, 2019, President Faustin Archange Touadéra and the representative of the 11 largest armed groups in CAR signed a peace agreement in Khartoum, agreeing to extend CAR’s governing functions to cities and areas controlled by the armed groups and to areas relinquished by the armed groups. In cooperation with UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other partners, INL is assisting the CAR government in the re-establishment of the country’s criminal justice system, through the provision of training, technical assistance, mentoring, and basic equipment for police, gendarmerie, judicial police, prosecutors, judicial staff, judges, and corrections officers. INL is also supporting the refurbishment of some police, gendarmerie, and prisons facilities. Additionally, INL assists in the re-establishment of prefecture and sub-prefecture offices, which must reassert the rule of law and government authority and rebuild local criminal justice.
- Through the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), INL is working to address the immediate needs of victims and vulnerable populations through the provision of legal aid while strengthening the ability of CAR’s judicial actors to effectively administer justice, and to reinforce the ability of civil society organizations and communities to enhance access to justice. Through ABA ROLI’s program, INL works to improve the administration of justice for serious criminal offenses, expand access to legal services, and build confidence in the judicial system to prevent and combat atrocities. INL also supports training CAR’s police and gendarmerie to increase their capacity to provide law enforcement, security, public order, and rule of law.