Checking in on Central African Republic

Checking in on Central African Republic

After years of political instability, Central African Republic isn’t the magnet for accomplished Africa hunters that it once was. The two remaining outfitters there have been able to book up their hunts, however, and hunters continue to take top bongo trophies.

We had an update on the previous season from Alain Lefol (alain.lefol@bgan.fr), who operates the Vovodo concession in the southeast. He says, “All hunters were successful on the game they wanted to collect. We had five bongo taken in 2018, with the biggest was 35 3/8 and the smallest 32 and 6/8. We also had great luck on giant forest hog and yellow-backed duiker this season.

“This season we had four US hunters, two from Belgium, one from France and another from Switzerland. The safaris ranged from 18 to 27 days, and we finished up at the end of July. Game has improved a lot, and we are seeing more and more bongo, buffalo, leopard and giant forest hogs. Other available game includes yellow-backed duiker, Weyns duiker, red-flanked duiker, and red river hogs.

“There is absolutely no problem with security in the hunting area. No poachers, no herdsmen, and the LRA is out. The political situation moves slowly in a good direction. Russian and Portuguese military have done a good job restoring order, and Europe continues to advise. Bangui is very secure and there have been no problems there in areas hunters move. Similarly we have had no issues with charter flights.”

Bongo hunted with Alain Lefol’s National Safaris in southeastern CAR

Lefol says thats it’s his 43rd year operating with his own company in the southeast of the country.
Jacques Lemaux at Safari Bongo (jacques.lemaux@tin.it) says he will continue to operate in Rafai in 2019, and plans to take five hunters. He likewise reports no issues with hunting or travel.

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance has provided a security report on CAR that is somewhat less sanguine. Hunters will have to decide what their tolerance for risk is, and operators will be able to discuss any concerns with prospective clients.

The Central African Republic (CAR) continues to experience the lingering effects of its civil war which began in 2012. The Muslim Seleka rebels and the Christian Anti-Balaka militia continue to perpetrate occasional violent acts against each other and the government in and around the capital of Bangui. The attacks are most common in the Bangui’s PK5 District, a Muslim majority neighborhood that has been a center of conflict since 2013. In April 2018, the US Department of State ordered the temporary departure of non-emergency government personnel at the Embassy in Bangui. This announcement came in the wake of outbreaks of violence within the city. The violence was likely stoked by an announcement by the United Nations (UN) that its peacekeeping force would actively begin disarming all criminal and rebel groups. By May of 2018, Médecins Sans Frontiers reported treating over 150 casualties in the spate of violence that took place in over the course of a few weeks.

In other locations throughout the country, rebel militias and armed groups remain active and routinely seek out targets of opportunity including foreign travelers, unguarded cargo transports, remote villages, and government facilities. The most infamous rebel militia in the country, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has dwindled greatly in numbers over the past three years. There are still many attacks attributed to the LRA but very few are verified to be LRA actors. The central control of the group has diminished greatly, and it is difficult to determine if attacks are conducted by LRA regulars, criminal opportunists, or splinter groups. There are at least 14 named rebel groups in the country and many more unnamed smaller armed groups. All have been responsible for some level of violence in the country. In July 2018, three Russian investigative journalists where killed about 30km north of the northern town of Sibut while investigating mercenary activities in the region. The group responsible remains unidentified. Due to the multitude of players and ineffective government control, security and stability throughout the country remains a challenge.

CAR authorities with the help of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) force have had limited success in stabilizing the large swaths of remote countryside. The combined 15,000-person force conducts operations throughout the country but the capability of the force to respond to dynamic events is limited as distances can be extreme. In response to the accelerated violence, France, a main contributor of manpower to MINUSCA, reiterated the need to disarm the many militia groups and legitimize the opposing forces to bring them to the negotiating table. This method of peace and reconciliation has seen success in other countries, such as Colombia and Lebanon, but will take many years to execute effectively. There will not likely be any improvement in CAR’s security situation in the near future.

Travel to CAR is not recommended. The US Department of State maintains a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) travel advisory for the country and has limited availability to help US citizens who travel against this advice. Additionally, the local government, including multi-national forces, have limited ability to respond to emergencies. Finally, the instability of the region has caused logistical problems. Roads outside of Bangui are in a state of disrepair or nonexistent. Ground travel over a few hundred kilometers can take days or weeks, particularly during the rainy season. Airplane fuel shortages are common, and many aircraft are unable to complete routine maintenance due to a lack of parts or maintenance personnel. This greatly reduces the ability for any aircraft to respond to remote destinations.