In the past half-century, the Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced a cycle of coups, rebellions and widespread violence, fuelled by weak governance and extremely poor living conditions. Following the forced resignation of President Michel Djotodia in January 2014, former Bangui mayor Catherin Samba-Panza was elected head of the transitional government. A United Nations peacekeeping mission—MINUSCA—was authorized in April 2014, with the primary objective of civilian protection. The regional transition roadmap established in 2013 calls for a new constitution and constitutional referendum before presidential and legislative elections, which are scheduled to be held in 2015. Persistent unrest threatens this timetable and the national reconciliation process more broadly.
The protracted instability has had a devastating effect on social relations: a climate of intense mistrust and apprehension reigns, and inter-communal violence erupts regularly. Sexual violence is pervasive, with a pronounced absence of resources for survivors. In a report released in July 2014, the United Nations Committee on Sanctions against the Central African Republic declared that “the total impunity that allows individuals to engage in or provide support for acts that undermine the peace, security and territorial integrity of the Central African Republic remains the main stumbling block on the road of the political transition.”
To help alleviate this situation and to support the transition, in October 2014, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) launched a two-year program that helps to strengthen the justice sector, to combat impunity—including for sexual and gender-based violence—and to improve access to justice.