A new report, “The Bangui Carousel: How the recycling of political elites reinforces instability and violence in the Central African Republic,” published today by the Enough Project, reveals how a small group of elites rotate through positions of power in a cycle of corruption that undermines governance and contributes to instability and armed conflict.
Christopher Day, report co-author and Enough Project Non-Resident Fellow, said: “The nature of CAR’s elite politics is at the heart of the country’s current crisis, where much of the country is still controlled by armed groups, and where so many ordinary Central Africans have had their lives upended by violence and displacement. They must have an opportunity to rethink and transform the political system that has excluded them for so long.”
The report details how the Central African Republic (CAR) has endured persistent violence for decades, and offers critical recommendations to address institutional weakness, entrenched corruption, and political exclusion in order to support greater stability and peace. According to the report, more than 2 million people, or half of the CAR’s population, are experiencing hunger, and nearly 415,000 people remain internally displaced.
Brad Brooks-Rubin, Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “It is time to bring the Bangui Carousel described in this report to an end. On the Carousel, elites cycle through regime after regime within a system marked by weak governance structures that enable these elites to exploit their positions for personal benefit. President Touadéra and the international community must learn from these lessons of the past and institute reforms that ensure a more transparent and accountable structure, one that can finally govern for the benefit of all the people.”
Nathalia Dukhan, CAR Field Analyst and Researcher at the Enough Project, said: “The Central African Republic is at a crucial turning point, and actions taken by President Touadéra will have a decisive impact on the country’s future. Decades of rule by despotic regimes have plunged millions of Central Africans into unbearable living conditions, while enabling the emergence of predatory rebel groups. Breaking with the past means that the new government must urgently address the syndrome described by the Bangui Carousel. Rather than placing perpetrators of atrocities and economic crimes in power, reforms must aim to stop the pillaging of CAR’s resources and end impunity among the political elites.”
Selected report excerpts:
- “[S]uccessive rulers in CAR have maintained authority largely by centralizing control where possible, and extended personal rule by dispensing patronage in return for political support, in particular by personally appointing to senior posts those who served in previous governments or trusted family members. This system has fostered division between the capital and the countryside, incubated the grievances of armed groups, and above all, created significant incentives to hijack the state through violence. This occurs as groups have competed for control of the state to access resources and privileges…”
- “There are few effective state or local government institutions, making the role and impact of the recycled individual leaders that much more potent. Unfortunately, it has been the complete dismantling of institutional checks and balances, the weakening of political parties and civil society organizations, and the use of violence to suppress opposition that have been the hallmark of many of these leaders.”
- “If policymakers fail to address the structural issues that led to the crisis in CAR, the country is likely to repeat its violent past.”
Key report recommendations:
1. Establish robust and independent anti-corruption institutions. The CAR government should implement a transparent and accountable system for financial management, including a strong auditor general-type function, empowerment of tax authorities to ensure proper revenue collection measures are followed, and review of major contracts issued by both past and current governments. Anti-corruption bodies must be established within the new government, and senior officials should declare their assets upon appointment and annually thereafter.
2. Prioritize transparency in natural resource revenues, contracting, and spending to prevent corruption. The U.S. government and other donors should urge the CAR government to set up mechanisms to prevent high-level corruption and provide technical assistance to help implement them. These should include a transparent bidding process for the awarding of natural resource concessions, the annual publishing of the government budget and establishing a requirement that natural resource exploitation contracts are made public.
3. Impose targeted sanctions and strengthen enforcement against those who undermine peace. The U.N. Security Council, the U.S. government, and the EU should impose additional sanctions on individuals and companies that attempt to undermine stability and the transition to good governance through acts of armed violence or through facilitating public corruption.
4. Ensure that the restart of the Kimberley Process prevents the flow of conflict diamonds. The restart of the Kimberley Process for rough diamonds in CAR could give the government legitimate revenue streams, or conversely, allow armed groups to profit from a conflict diamond trade again, depending on how it is run.
5. Restart the EITI process to make resource revenues more transparent. If fully implemented, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) can help prevent and reduce corruption in the natural resource trade by making revenue payments and receipts transparent.
6. Strengthen the judiciary in CAR and promote Special Criminal Court prosecutions. International donors such as the U.S. government, the EU, and the World Bank should increase funding to rebuild the crippled judiciary in CAR, and in particular, make sure that the Special Criminal Court has sufficient funds, international expertise, and independence to operate and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations and abuses.
7. Help improve capacity and safeguards for civil society and the media. The role of civil society and the press is critical in monitoring, and eventually diminishing, the Bangui Carousel and ensuring that those involved in government in CAR are serving the people rather than their own interests. The new CAR government should opt in to the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability, so that the country can benefit from the bank’s capacity building opportunities for civil society.
8. Reform the government appointment process. It is not unusual for political patronage to inform government appointments, but in CAR this has been extreme. The CAR government should develop and incorporate merit-based criteria for the appointment of ministers and other political appointees in CAR such that patronage is much more balanced with merit.
About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – atwww.EnoughProject.org.