Crises in CAR and Libya

Crises in Central African Republic and Libya have been heating up in recent weeks.  Yesterday in CAR, two people were reported killed in clashes following the killing of a local magistrate and his assistant by former Seleka rebels.  The Seleka rebel group seized power in March, after which the group’s leader, Michel Djotodia, named himself president and declared the group to have been dissolved.  Rebels unhappy with the move, which appeared to be an attempt by Djotodia to consolidate power, continue to operate in armed gangs in the outskirts of the capital Bangui, where they go largely unchecked, committing acts of violence and petty crime by most reports.  The area around the capital and the country as a whole are often described as being in a state of near anarchy.

Perhaps more alarmingly, the government of Cameroon stated that on Saturday armed men from CAR had attack Cameroonian military installations, offices, and markets, looting stores and killing two before being forced by Cameroonian forces to withdraw.  Reports said that the men were wearing CAR military uniforms.  It is also the third time that armed men from CAR have attacked Cameroon, with the first attack in August leading to Cameroon closing the border. It is possible that this latest attack was an attempt to free Abdoulaye Miskine, the leader of a Seleka splinter group called the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FPDC), who had been arrested in Cameroon in September.

Lord's Resistance Army Area of Influence, circa February 2012

Lord’s Resistance Army Area of Influence, circa February 2012

The overall situation in CAR has prompted the AU to prepare a peacekeeping mission, titled MISCA, but it is unlikely to be operational before 2014.  CAR was also a major focal point in the campaign against the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group, supported by the US Operation Observant Compass.  This effort has reportedly been severely degraded following the upheaval in March.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing AQIM areas of influence in Mali, Algeria, and Libya, as of 22 February 2013

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing AQIM areas of influence in Mali, Algeria, and Libya, as of 22 February 2013

Libya also continues to struggle with remnants of its civil war that led to the fall of the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.  Militias continue to operate with impunity in many areas, and lacking a functional security service, the new government in the country relies heavily on them for its own security.  Efforts to train a functional national military and other security service elements have so far failed to produce the desired results.  This is of great concern to the United States and European powers, given the already porous nature of Libya’s borders (a security summit held in Rabat, Morocco on the 14th, which Libya attended, had already declared a need for increased border security in the Sahel-Sahara region broadly), the limited government control in much of the country, and the rise of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the region.

To give a sense of things in Libya, the country’s Deputy Intelligence Chief, Mustafa Nuh, had been abducted from the airport in Tripoli by armed militiamen yesterday, only to be released today.  The country’s Prime Minister had also been briefly abducted in October, in what observers and his aides said was possibly a political plot or even an attempted coup.  This latest abduction follows a protest against militias in Tripoli on Friday that turned violent as militiamen attempted to break it up, resulting in the deaths of over 40 protesters.  Libya subsequently declared a state of emergency in Tripoli and protesters called a three-day general strike.  The Libyan government was also reportedly working to dissolve the pro-government Revolutionary Operations Bureau militia, which had been one of the groups involved in the recent violence in Tripoli and responsible for the abduction of the Prime Minister.  It remained unclear whether the government had the capability to do so, or even a real desire to do so, given the state of the country’s security forces as already mentioned.

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