The Central African Republic is a presidential republic. After a three-year transitional government, most recently led by Catherine Samba Panza from January 2014 to March 2016, voters elected President Faustin-Archange Touadera in a February run-off. A new constitution came into effect on March 30, approved by 93 percent of voters in a December 2015 referendum; voter turnout was 38 percent. International observers reported both the presidential elections and constitutional referendum were free and fair, despite reports of irregularities. The constitution established a bicameral parliament, with a directly elected National Assembly and an indirectly elected Senate. On January 25, the Transitional Constitutional Court annulled the December 30 National Assembly elections due to widespread irregularities, voter intimidation, and fraud and ordered new elections. On May 3, the National Assembly was seated following several rounds of new elections; elections for the Senate were not held, and no date had been announced.
Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces, and state authority barely extended beyond the capital, Bangui. Armed groups controlled significant swaths of territory throughout the country and acted as de facto governing institutions, taxing local populations, providing security services, and appointing armed group members to leadership roles.
The most serious human rights problems included arbitrary and unlawful killings, especially those perpetrated by the ex-Seleka and groups known as the anti-Balaka. (Note: This report refers to the “ex-Seleka” for all abuses attributed to the armed factions associated with Seleka, including the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic or FPRC, Union for Peace (UPC), and Patriotic Movement for Central African Republic or MPC, which occurred after the Seleka was dissolved in September 2013). Beginning in 2012 the violence claimed thousands of lives. More than 800,000 persons remained internally displaced or had fled to neighboring countries. Enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence, including rape, continued.
Other human rights problems included harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and illegal detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; delays in re-establishing a functional judicial system, resulting in prolonged pretrial detention; seizure and destruction of property without due process; and the use of excessive and indiscriminate force in internal conflict. There were restrictions on freedom of movement. Many internally displaced persons lacked protection and access to basic services, especially outside Bangui. Corruption was widespread. Domestic and international human rights groups faced harassment and threats. Discrimination and violence were experienced by women; children; persons with disabilities; ethnic minorities; indigenous people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; individuals with HIV/AIDS; Christians; and Muslims. Forced labor and child labor, including forced child labor, and use of child soldiers were also problems.
The government did not take steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, creating a climate of impunity that was reinforced by a general lack of citizen access to judicial services. There were numerous allegations that peacekeepers and staff in UN missions sexually abused adults and children in the country during the year (see section 1.c.).