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Policy Update: Central African Republic Factsheet

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The Central African Republic (CAR) has a long history of political strife, coups, severe human rights abuses, and underdevelopment. Despite this, sectarian violence and targeted killing based on religious identity are new to the majority-Christian country. The ongoing conflict started after the 2013 coup by a coalition of Muslim-majority militias and has resulted in thousands of people dead, 2.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 480,000 refugees, and more than 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Before 2012, 85 percent of CAR’s population was Christian and 15 percent was Muslim. By the end of 2014, 80 percent of the country’s Muslim population had been driven out of CAR.
In 2015, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) first recommended that CAR be designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) because of the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and sectarian violence in that country. USCIRF continues to recommend CAR be designated as a CPC, finding the country remains susceptible to outbreaks of sectarian violence, is fractured along religious lines, has a severely marginalized Muslim population, and has a government that can and should increase its reconciliation efforts. In May, a USCIRF delegation traveled to Bangui and Boda in CAR and assessed religious freedom conditions for CAR’s minority-Muslim population, government reconciliation efforts, the status of the conflict, and the country’s rule of law challenges. The delegation met with senior CAR officials, religious leaders, United Nations (UN) representatives, and civil society actors. USCIRF concluded that despite some positive efforts to address insecurity and Christian-Muslim communal tensions, the U.S. government should recommit to assisting the fledgling CAR government to prevent and end conflict, improve reconciliation, reverse the cleansing and marginalization of Muslims, and hold accountable perpetrators of crimes against humanity and gross  human rights abuses.