Border Clashes Will Raise Regional Tensions

BMI View: Attacks by Central African Republic-based gunmen are destabilising Cameroon's eastern regions, and this will increase pressure for a stronger international response to the crisis in Africa's newest failed state. We believe that the situation in the Central African Republic poses a significant threat to political stability in neighbouring countries, especially Cameroon.

Cameroonian authorities report that gunmen from the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) launched a cross-border raid on November 16 and 17, attacking the village of Gbiti. They were subsequently repelled by Cameroonian security forces after a fire fight that killed a civilian, five attackers, and one government soldier. Local sources are unsure whether the attack was part of an operation to free a rebel commander held in Cameroon or merely a local raid seeking to pillage supplies.

In either case, BMI believes that the border clash highlights the risk that insecurity in the CAR poses to neighbouring countries. We believe that the lawless situation in the country will continue over the medium term, and that cross-border raids into Cameroon will likely become increasingly common. We maintain our view that even a large-scale Western intervention in the CAR would struggle to re-establish political stability in the fragile country.

The Central African Anarchy?
Central Africa - CAR And Regional States

The CAR's current crisis dates back to March 2013, when a rebel alliance referred to as Séléka (which means 'union' in a local language) overthrew the government of President François Bozizé. The rebels have failed to establish a cohesive government, and the country has fallen into a state of anarchy. Sectarian clashes between Muslim Séléka fighters and the mostly Christian population are increasing, while most government institutions have effectively ceased to function.

A Poor Neighbour

BMI believes that violence in the CAR poses a serious threat to neighbouring countries, especially to Cameroon. Cameroon's comparative wealth makes it an attractive target for armed raiders seeking to gather supplies, and the country is already being used as a refuge by more than 90,000 people fleeing violence. Several armed groups, including soldiers loyal to deposed president Bozizé, have also fled across the border, increasing the risk that the country will become caught up in clashes between opposing CAR factions.

We predict that the increasing threat posed by anarchic conditions in the CAR will cause Cameroon to support a stronger international response to the situation (see 'Regional Crises Threaten Border Security', November 4 2013). Cameroonian President Paul Biya is already a leading proponent of an more forceful armed intervention in the CAR.

No Easy Solutions

BMI's core view, however, remains that the crisis in the CAR is likely to continue over the medium term. Regional states have already deployed a 2,500-strong peacekeeping mission, but the force's small size and lack of logistical support have rendered it ineffective. The mission will be expanded to 3,600 troops and placed under African Union command in 2014, but BMI doubts that even a larger force will succeed in stabilising the country, which is almost as large as France.

We believe that even a large, Western-backed UN mission would struggle to stabilise the situation in the CAR. France, which has a history of intervening in the area, has already deployed several hundred troops to the country to protect its citizens there. We believe that Paris will eventually be pulled into supporting a larger intervention, though we stress that even this would not address the structural causes of state weakness in the CAR (see 'French Intervention Will Not Prevent Economic Collapse', October 16 2013).

This article is tagged to:
Sector: Country Risk
Geography: Central African Rep., Cameroon

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