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.
INL supports Central African Republic’s efforts to re-establish its criminal justice institutions that collapsed during more than two years of civil conflict and destabilizing violence. Security and justice are two of President Faustin Archange Touadéra’s three key objectives. Our program enhances the CAR government’s capabilities to protect, serve, and provide security, law enforcement, and justice to all CAR citizens across sectarian-lines while upholding human rights, combatting impunity, and increasing public trust. Our program also assists CAR’s central government in expanding governance to and stabilizing the provinces.
Challenges: During the past two decades, the Central African Republic (CAR) has suffered instability, conflict, and violence. In the ensuing violence, national government, 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 with impunity. Thousands of people have been brutally killed and nearly 900,000 Central Africans displaced, with more than one-half displaced to neighboring countries.
The lack of a sizeable police and gendarmerie presence in cities and areas outside of Bangui fosters conditions that allow armed groups (whether ex-Séléka or former anti-Balaka) to retain control of cities and towns, and groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to continue to operate and terrorize local communities. Strengthening governance, security, and the rule of law in CAR will contribute to regional stability by ensuring that CAR and its neighbors like Chad and Cameroon can resist the influence of and combat extremist groups like Boko Haram.
Goals: The United States Government reopened its Embassy in Bangui in September 2014 and has taken 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.
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 envisions a CAR society in which the rule of law, operational criminal justice institutions, and government authority are reasserted, and the impunity for perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and other crimes has ended. 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.
Accomplishments: Through a sizeable contribution to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund, INL is assisting the CAR Transitional Government in the re-establishment of the country’s criminal justice system. INL provides training, technical assistance, mentoring, and basic equipment for police, gendarmerie, judicial police, prosecutors, judicial staff, judges, and corrections officers, and supports the refurbishing of some police, gendarmerie, and prisons facilities. INL also assists in the re-establishment of prefecture and sub-prefecture offices, which must reassert rule of law, government authority, and rebuild local criminal justice.
Through the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative, INL works to provide greater access to justice for survivors of SGBV and expand the capabilities of CAR’s criminal justice sector to hold perpetrators of SGBV accountable under the law. We support a network of six legal centers in CAR to provide assistance to SGBV victims. Three centers are open in Bangui, Bimbo, Bouar, Berbérati, and Mbaïki, and anticipate opening another in the near future. The project also trains judges, prosecutors, court staff, and judicial police to more effectively process and prosecute cases, ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable. The project will also expand the ability of local community-based organizations to provide pro bono legal services to SGBV survivors and train paralegals to link members of the community to these legal aid services. In addition, the project will conduct a public awareness campaign to increase local knowledge of the availability of resources for SGBV victims, and disseminate knowledge of the damages that SGBV imposes on local communities and individuals.