The interim constitution, known as the Transitional National Charter, and the new constitution, which came into effect on March 30, provide for freedom of religion and equal protection under the law regardless of religion. They prohibit all forms of religious intolerance and “religious fundamentalism.” Government officials exercised limited control or influence in most of the country and police and the gendarmerie failed to stop or punish abuses committed by militias, including abductions, physical abuse, and gender based violence. The mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia forces and the predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka militia forces continued to occupy territories in the western and northern parts of the country, respectively. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reported that clashes between the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka militias in September resulted in the death of six Christian civilians and the injury of one peacekeeper. The death of an ex-Seleka fighter in October sparked a large clash in a northern town. According to reports, ex-Seleka fighters attacked the northern, predominantly Christian town of Kaga Bandoro, including an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, a Catholic Church compound, and a school, which resulted in 30 people dead and more than 40 wounded. The Muslim community reported continued discrimination, including when requesting government services. According to one witness, Muslim truck drivers were systematically singled out at security checkpoints, harassed, and forced to pay money to police, gendarmerie, and the Central African Armed Forces (FACA).
During the year, outbreaks of violence between Muslim and Christian citizens and residents continued, involving members of competing armed groups, including the anti-Balaka and the ex-Seleka forces. There were several separate incidents reported of violence between individual Muslims and Christians, followed by subsequent retaliation attacks. According to MINUSCA, on June 11, an assailant robbed and stabbed a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver to death in Bangui. On October 20, assailants killed a Muslim man in Bangui, cut his remains into pieces, and deposited them at the Central Mosque. On November 17, three Muslim men were conveyed to the Kouango health center following an attack by a group of anti-Balaka militiamen in Bangao and Pende. In October an armed gang killed a high-ranking military officer in the Muslim enclave PK5, with further sectarian violence ensuing within the capital. The media continued to portray the Muslim community negatively. Bangui’s Lakouanga Mosque reopened after being destroyed twice in recent years.
On separate occasions, the Ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, an Assistant Secretary of State, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom met with government and religious leaders to discuss the impact of the ongoing conflict among religious groups, challenges faced by the Muslim community, and ways to promote the return of IDPs to their homes and to foster religious tolerance. In July the U.S. Ambassador joined President Faustin-Archange Touadera for a visit to Bangui’s Lakouanga Mosque for the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The Ambassador and embassy officials met regularly with Christian and Muslim religious leaders to discuss their relationship with the new government, reports of religious discrimination, and the role of religious groups in reconciliation efforts.