Governing people’s safety in areas of limited statehood

South Sudan and the Central African Republic IMG_4177

Although it may seem that South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) fractured rather suddenly in late 2013, a closer look reveals histories of economic disintegration, lack of social and political cohesion and fluid loyalties of men in arms. This GIGA-Institute of African Affairs research project sets out to understand the relations between actors and institutions involved in maintaining security and stability in areas away from the capital city.

The project seeks to decipher actions and structures that contribute to or undermine stability. The research studies how local, national and international (non-state) actors govern and secure areas of extremely limited state presence. Why are some areas with only limited statehood able to produce lasting stability? Who are the state and non-state actors that engage in local security provision and why are they legitimate?

We did fieldwork in South Sudan in November-December 2014 and in the Central African Republic in February-March 2015, January-March 2016 and August 2017. We wrote short research notes about our first findings. Here is the latest report from our visit to Bangui:

How to Curb the Central African Republic’s Downward Spiral?  Rising Violence, Absent Government, and Cattle Theft
With violence sharply on the rise in the central and eastern parts of the country and 14 out of the 16 prefectures under the control of armed groups, none of the national or international actors seem to have ready solutions at hand. The recent warning of an ensuing “genocide” by UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, however, misses the point. Violence is not centrally orchestrated against one seemingly clearly defined community. Instead, conflict is on the rise due to shifting alliances between armed groups, local spirals of revenge attacks, and a devastating reluctance of UN peacekeeping troops to intervene. In the context of rising violence, the biggest concern for the national government, elected in March 2016, is to end the arms embargo. Realistically speaking, government forces can at most play a supportive role to peacekeeping troops. At the same time uncontrolled rearmament of the national army could potentially trigger new conflict lines. It is thus crucial to understand the entirety of the new power balances within the institutions of the state, including the worrying struggles between and within government and parliament, and the linkages between political elites in the capital and the armed groups in the provinces. Despite efforts by the president and a few of his ministers, the overall weaknesses of the state – including the neglect of the provinces and abuse of office – seem to persist. Finally, the plight of the nomadic cattle keepers, the Peulh, should receive international attention – not only because of their very real suffering, but also because cattle have become a key revenue source and item of conflict. Continue reading…


Persistent Insecurity in the Central African Republic: Paoua, Bangassou and Obo (February 2016)
With peaceful presidential elections having taken place in early 2016, state authorities slowly redeploying to the peripheries and the United Nations mission nearing full force, it seems the Central African Republic (CAR) is entering a post-conflict phase. However, research in Paoua, Bangassou and Obo shows security structures and actors in the ‘post-conflict’ phase do not differ significantly from those before or during the conflict. The next security deterioration could be imminent if local realities aren’t taken serious. Many things have been pushed back until “après les éléctions”, meaning that the pressure and the task burden on the new leadership is immense. To grapple with continuing exactions by non-state armed groups, the redeployment of the army (FACA) is recurrently proposed. In past times, however, the FACA were more often part of the problem rather than the solution – as was the case again recently in Obo. The UN mission is filling the state void with increasing numbers of personnel, but continues to have difficulties in eradicating insecurity. This stems in part from focusing on Séléka and Anti-Balaka clashes and atrocities – two supposed entities that never truly existed as such and that have by now melted into long-held inter- communal tensions. Dealing with these armed groups through nation-wide approaches, such as a blue- print DDR, thus risks further exasperating local feelings of marginalization. Positive signs should not be neglected: The Muslim versus Christian narrative has weakened in all three localities (although it seems to have deepened in the capital Bangui), the elections have raised high hopes of a better future and the vast majority of Central Africans are strongly opposed to continued fighting. Continue reading…

Disrupted social cohesion in the Central African Republic: Paoua, Bangassou and Obo (February – March 2015)
Stability and social cohesion have been deteriorating in the Central African Republic (CAR) for decades. Yet, the past three years have marked an unprecedented level of violence, killing and looting. Formerly, deep-rooted distrust between fellow citizens of different origins, livelihoods or religious orientations was countered with a minimal level of peaceful cohabitation. The social fabric seems to have torn, however. The three localities visited for this project – Paoua, Bangassou and Obo – differ in their social-economic relations, political history and geographic environment. Still, their conflict dynamics show interesting parallels. Continue reading… 

Sinon en Français:
La cohésion sociale ébranlée en République centrafrique

Focus groep voor website

Security Developments in South Sudan’s Peripheries – Mundri, Buseri and Raja (December 2014)
In December 2013, South Sudan became embroiled in a civil war that, among other actors, pitted the president and former vice-president against one another. This research, however, focused explicitly on those areas where people continued living together relatively peacefully. Nonetheless, in the three visited research sites, the relations between the people of South Sudan and the government were marked by tensions. Two of these sites experienced armed conflict and the government impacted local security in all three areas, often in a hostile manner. Local actors reacted either by accommodation, withdrawal or resistance. Continue reading…

Collaborative framework
The research project started in 2014 and is directed by Prof. dr. Andreas Mehler of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Institute of African Affairs. Tim Glawion is the PhD candidate working on the project. It is part of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 700 “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood”, which was established at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2006. Using a common analytical framework, several projects analyze different aspects of governance in areas in which the state struggles to implement or enforce decisions.