Freedom in the World 2017 - Central African Republic

Freedom Status: Not Free
Aggregate Score: 10 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free)
Freedom Rating: 7.0 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Political Rights: 7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Civil Liberties: 7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 5,000,000
Capital: Bangui
GDP/capita: $323
Press Freedom Status: Not Free


The Central African Republic suffers from pervasive insecurity, intercommunal violence, and an absence of government authority across much of its territory. A new government – elected in early 2016 after more than two years of a transitional administration – does not have authority beyond the capital. As a result of ongoing attacks on civilians by a range of armed groups, the country faces a humanitarian crisis.

Key Developments in 2016:

  • Central African Republic (CAR) held peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections in February and March, resulting in the election of Faustin-Archange Touadéra as the country's new president and the seating of a new National Assembly.

  • In October, a high-ranking military officer was assassinated in Bangui, the capital, setting off a new round of intercommunal clashes in the city.

  • Throughout the year, self-defense militias and irregular armed groups continued to operate with impunity across much of the country, carrying out violent attacks against civilians and inhibiting the ability of humanitarian organizations to access populations in need.

Executive Summary:

CAR held presidential and parliamentary elections in early 2016, leading to a peaceful transfer of power from the National Transitional Council to an elected government. Former prime minister Touadéra, an independent candidate, was elected president in February with 63 percent of the vote in a run-off, defeating Anicet-Georges Dologuélé of the Central African Union for Renewal (URCA), who received 37 percent. A rerun of December 2015 legislative elections was held concurrent to the presidential run-off, after the initial vote was annulled by the Transitional Constitutional Court due to widespread irregularities. Independent candidates took 55 of the 140 seats, and the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP) became the party with the most seats, with 13. Results from the new elections were validated by the Transitional Constitutional Court, and the new National Assembly was seated in May. The elections were regarded as generally successful and peaceful. International observers expressed hope that the country's first national elections since the outbreak of armed conflict in late 2012 would be an important step toward stabilization in CAR.

However, armed groups – including those formerly part of the largely Muslim Séléka coalition and Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka – continued to operate with impunity across large sections of the country's territory. These groups – which do not answer to any single political authority – are responsible for recurrent human rights violations, sexual violence, and targeted attacks against civilians on the basis of ethnic and religious identity. In October, the assassination of a high-ranking military officer in Bangui threatened to further strain the country's fragile political situation, and a new round of interfactional violence in northwestern CAR was ignited in late November. This general environment of insecurity curtailed free expression of political views, as well as the movement of people and organizations across the country's territory.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) – the UN peacekeeping force in the country – had been unable to stem the violence, and has itself faced allegations of sexually abusing and exploiting members of the population.

An estimated 2.2 million people – more than a third of the country's population – remain in need of humanitarian assistance, but access is limited. Operations by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across different regions of the country are restricted by poor security conditions along main transportation routes. According to the United Nations, at least 336 attacks against humanitarian workers occurred throughout the year.

Explanatory Note:

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Central African Republic, see Freedom in the World 2016.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.