Landmark research on regional conflicts in Central Africa

Societies caught in the conflict trap: Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan

Ethnic and religious tensions and totalitarianism are direct threats to the future survival of thousands, if not millions of people in both Sudan countries, Chad and CAR. In that region, many common problems and real conflict regional dynamics exist. The main drivers of conflict have been identified as relating to questions of identity, poor governance and control over natural resources. While elsewhere in Africa ethnic politics is the main crisis of identity, in these four states, there is a mix of ethnic, religious, class and national identities.

In the Central Africa region common problems and real conflict regional dynamics do exist. We observe in particular that: i) the state and politics are controlled in the four countries by a party, the NCP in Sudan, the SPLM in South Sudan, the MPS in Chad and the KNK in CAR; ii) issues of identity are common: the role of Islam, the culture and the Arabic language, the divide farmers / pastoralists; as well as natives and non-natives along the border in southern Sudan between South Sudan and the CAR, the DRC, Uganda, and also the issue of returnees from North to South Sudan; iii) the armed groups are present in all regions in southern Sudan, in the north of Sudan, in Darfur, in Nubba's mountains, in CAR and in Chad...

The interactions between those countries are numerous : political and armed groups at the borders, the interference of neighboring countries (Sudan, Libya, DRC) and between them, frequent interventions of the Chadian army in CAR, border ethnic groups. Many armed groups cross this region. The LRA has created a lawless area in southeastern CAR and extend their activities in Sudan. Several rebel groups from Chad and Darfur are based in Central African Republic, others are based in Darfur and destabilize eastern Chad, Libya and Chad.
The links between these four countries are inevitable. Population flows between Chad and the CAR, Chad and Sudan, Sudan and South Sudan have increased instability within each country and along borders. There are ethnic ties and trade between the peoples of the north-eastern CAR and Sudan, and the number of Sudanese refugees in CAR has reached 14,000, many of them came during the civil war in southern Sudan. Many more refugees from Darfur are in camps in eastern Chad.
The crisis in Darfur, Chad and CAR are closely related, while the situation in South Sudan remains concerned about Sudan and its political future. The instability in Darfur somehow creates an environment conducive to conflict in CAR.

Causes of conflict

The question of identity is at the heart of conflicts in this sub-region: in this period of conflict, people are recognized initially on the basis of their ethnic identity and community, but also on the basis of their "legitimacy" of their territory (aboriginal, immigrant but also farmers / pastoralists). The inter-religious tensions are also very strong in the four countries. This is both natural in the regional context but also a product of political strategies (French colonization in Chad, Libya's influence in Sudan, political game, evangelical sects...); we also observed logical ethnic domination in 4 countries: Zaghawa and BET in Chad, Arab Nile in Sudan, Dinka in South Sudan and Yakomas in CAR. Today facing this culture of rejection of the other, we observe progressively the extension of this notion of identity to the concept of citizenship; national identity, secularism, and greater participation of women in community life... Young people and women are the flame of this evolution.
We can therefore identify five identity problems in the region: the issue of ethnic groups, that is to say when people identify themselves and are defined by this aspect, then the competition, the rejection of others and domination are exacerbated by another and can cause conflicts at local, national and regional; religion, especially where state affairs are intertwined with religion and are not separated. Religion is used as a tool of discrimination and bullying the issue of indigenous, which generally favors the exploitation and discrimination of poor and marginalized; instrumentalization of citizenship when the state abuses of its power to remove the rights and duties of specific groups, and cultural practices (such as dia, the weapon bearing...) that can propagate violence, unfair practices and isolation from others, such as cattle rustling.

Regional approach

The region of Sudan, South Sudan, Chad and CAR is characterized by shared conflict drivers that spill over the countries' porous borders. Save for the African Union which has all the countries as registered members; there is no other regional body that accommodates all the four countries. Chad and Central African Republic belong to The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa. Sudan is a member of the Arab League and has applied for membership of the East African community. South Sudan is a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGAD) and has a pending application for the East African Community as well. Therefore in terms of intervention, the countries are best placed to have bilateral solutions supervised by the African Union. The other disadvantage is that the central geographical location of the states makes its cross border conflict interactions to be very extensive, excluding any other regional body from intervention, other than that with a continental reach i.e. the African Union. The African Union is the umbrella under which the states, individually and under the auspices of their regional bodies can come together to resolve the cross border conflict.

ACORD and CCFD-Terre Solidaire commit to Peace in Central Africa for 10 years

This landmark research was conducted by ACORD and CCFD - Terre Solidaire, who have committed to a 10-year peace-building programme that will focus on conflict resolution and transformation in the four countries with lessons shared across the continent.

The launch took place at the Panafric Hotel, Nairobi, on Friday, November 22, 2013.

Download the full research in English (French version coming soon).

  • central african republic
  • chad
  • conflict and peacebuilding
  • sudan - north
  • sudan - south