Central African Republic

Last Updated 11 September 2018

There has been serious and violent sectarian conflict in CAR in recent years, constituting a civil war, including a military coup. According to 2010 estimates, about 80 percent of the population of CAR are Christians; about 51 percent Protestant and 29 percent Roman Catholic. Islam is practiced by 15 percent of the population. The remaining 5 percent are a mix of indigenous beliefs. However, there has been widespread conflict and ethnic cleansing in recent years which may have severely changed these figures.

Central African Republic requested full membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2002.

Note: Given the widespread conflict it should be noted that the security of everyone in CAR is severely threatened. The overall human rights situation is severe. We apply the boundary condition “Expression of core humanist principles on democracy, freedom or human rights is severely restricted” not in this case due to specific legal restrictions, but to reflect the de facto degradation of democracy, civil society and human rights as a result of the civil war.

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The constitution affirms its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human Rights.

The constitution states that all human beings are equal before the law regardless of race, ethnicity, region, sex, religion, political affiliation and social position. The constitution does protect freedom of worship and freedom of assembly, and prohibits religious fundamentalism and intolerance.

Article 5 declares:

“All human beings are equal before the law regardless of race, ethnicity, region, sex, religion, political affiliation and social position. The law guarantees men and women equal rights in all areas. In the Central African Republic there is no subject or privilege of place of birth, person or family.”

Article 8 establishes freedom of “conscience, assembly, religion”, though not ‘religion or belief’ explicitly.

Without explicit mention of ‘religion or belief’ or similar, it is unclear if non-religious worldviews would be afforded equal protection under articles 5 or 8 and this does not appear to have been tested in law.

Article 8 also declares that “Any form of religious fundamentalism and intolerance is forbidden”, though there are no laws that prohibit fundamentalism as such.

Article 19 establishes separation of state and religion.

There is no state religion and there is no indication that the government favors any specific religion. Religious groups are legally required to register with the Ministry of Interior. Registration is free and other than conferring official recognition, it grants a number of benefits such as customs duty exemption for the importation of vehicles and equipment. It is unclear if non-religious civil society groups would be afforded similar benefits.

A ban on the Unification Church (“Moonies”) remains in force, as it was considered a subversive organization which allegedly trained younger church members as paramilitaries.

Education and children’s rights

The education system is free and compulsory from age 6 to 14. However, attendance is probably low. More recent figures are difficult to find due to the conflict, however the enrollment rate for primary school in 2008 was recorded to be around 72 percent, while only 7 percent proceeded to enroll for secondary school. Girls do not have equal access to primary school. In 2007, only 23 percent of girls were matriculated. This phenomenon has been attributed to societal pressures to marry and have children. Although the legal minimum age for civil marriage is 18, 61 percent of girls marry before the age of 18.

The high number of AIDS-related deaths and the violence that broke out in 2010 have affected the already fragile education system. Many schools were closed and many teacher, as well as students, fled.

Religious education is not mandatory. CAR students can choose to opt in to religious programs. However, religious instruction in schools is apparently rare and it is not part of the overall public school curriculum. However, private schools are allowed to teach religion instruction without government intervention.

CAR is not part of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Many children have reportedly been kidnapped by armed groups and held for ransom. In January 2013, UNICEF called on CAR to act on child recruitment by rebel groups and pro-government militias.

Family, community and society

Ongoing sectarian conflict has led to significant turmoil within the government and among the populace, many members of the population arming themselves and forming groups for defence or revenge.

The disputes fall along a religious dividing line, broadly setting Christians and Muslims against each other, though the Catholic Church has denied that “religion” as such plays a role in the conflict.

Ethnic cleansing has been reported and fears of mass genocide have caused the UN to increase their peacekeeping forces in CAR in order to try to restore some form of stability to the country.

Much of the country remains lawless. French and African Union troops were sent in as peacekeepers in late 2013, with UN peacekeepers taking over in September 2014 and still in place, with increased presence, as of 2018.

Background to the civil war

In December 2012 Seleka militia forces began an armed offensive in Central African Republic (CAR) this eventually resulted in a seizure of power by Seleka in March 2013, overthrowing President Francois Bozize. The Seleka remained in power until around December 2013 when French and African Union forces were sent in to disarm them. During their time in power the Seleka were responsible for massacres, rape, torture, executions and looting. The Seleka were a predominantly Muslim force, though not entirely so. Even as they withdrew at the end of 2013 and in 2014 they were responsible for numerous brutal attacks on Christian civilians, property and villages.

In response to the Seleka the anti-balaka are wholly Christian militias that have been actively seeking Muslim communities and carrying out brutal acts of violence as revenge for the Seleka. As a result of the anti-balaka’s aggression the Muslims left in the country are attempting to leave. Many have been killed while travelling, some are taking refuge in local churches and mosques and others are in refugee camps under necessary armed protection.

The interim President, Catherine Samba-Panza, struggled to maintain order and was called on by militia groups to resign, but Samba-Panza declared on state radio: “I will not resign. I must lead this country until the end of my mission.”

Though there were many attempted political coups over the years it was the Seleka that eventually overthrew Bozize. What started as a political battle in 2012 has since turned increasingly sectarian on religious grounds to the point where Muslims are now considered to have been mostly ‘ethnically cleansed’ from the capital Bengui and other areas.

The recognised government has been unable to project any sort of stability or control beyond Bangui. Amnesty International have reported that some African Union troops have committed unlawful killings among other human rights violations further exacerbating the problems in the country. The United Nations, in September 2014, sent large numbers of troops into CAR and control of the peacekeeping was passed over to the UN. As of November 2017, 73 members of the mission have been killed and civilians continue to to be affected by violence.

In November 2017, the UN Security Council extended the peacekeeping mission for another year, increasing its size to some 13,000 troops and police.

In January 2018, the Red Cross warned that the situation was still deteriorating, with half of the population in need of humanitarian aid


Under the CAR penal code, witchcraft or sorcery is a criminal offense punishable by death. Although no one has received death penalty based on witchcraft, a high number of individuals have been arrested and had to face sentences from 1 to 5 years in prison or were subjected to a large fine by local standards (up to US$1,500). Accusations of witchcraft are often a result of interpersonal disputes, and in the absence of hard evidence, convictions are often based on accusations alone.

Due to these malicious accusation, people may be buried alive or find their homes torched. Sending an accused child or a woman to prison may sometimes in effect constitute ‘protective custody’, sheltering the accused from mob violence within the community.

Witchcraft is a common explanation for diseases such as HIV. Many accuse others of witchcraft when they fall ill under the belief that they have been cursed.

In February 2018, a women prison facility in Bimbo hosted 42 women. Of these inmates, almost half were imprisoned for witchcraft.

It has been reported that “witch doctors” offer to immunize villagers against the practice of witchcraft by selling “herbal vaccinations” or by charging high fees to carry out exorcisms that often involve the brutalization of children.

Women’s rights and violations

Although rape is illegal, there is no minimum sentence for it and the law is not effectively enforced. A study conducted in 2009 reported that one in every seven women interviewed had been raped during the previous year. In 2010, the UN High Commission for Human Rights called for urgent action in response to sexual assault against women in CAR.

Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values

The radio represents the most popular medium of information. There are about twenty privately-owned stations and many are run by religious organizations. There are two Protestant, one Catholic and one Islamic broadcasting stations. The Government grants religious groups one day a week, of their choosing, to make free broadcasts on the official radio station.

Freedom of press

The CAR constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. However, threats and intimidation are still commonly used to limit criticism of the government, which has been previously accused of harassing journalists and tapping their phones.The effectiveness of news media is weakened by financial problems and a lack of access to state information.

Furthermore, inflated charges can be brought based on alleged defamation, incitement to ethnic or religious hatred, and the publication or broadcast of false information that could “disturb the peace”. In April 2014, the editors of two newspapers were arrested for publishing stories critical of the President Samba-Panza.

There have also been several episodes of physical violence and harassment towards journalists.

In August 2018 three Russian journalists were murdered. They had reportedly been investigating involvement of Russian mercenaries (in particular Wagner, a Kremlin-linked mercenary company) in the country’s conflict. Later the same month, Russia signed a military cooperation agreement with the country, to “help strengthen ties in the defence sphere”.

Television is a state monopoly. Its news coverage is generally skewed in favor of the government.


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