In response to escalating sectarian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has been embroiled in civil war since late 2012, President Obama has issued an Executive Order imposing sanctions on five individuals involved in the conflict and authorizing the U.S. Treasury Department to impose sanctions on other parties who engage in violence, human rights abuses, or other destabilizing activities in the country.

The Executive Order follows UN sanctions imposed in January of this year, which as of May 10 require UN Member States to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on former CAR President Francois Bozize and two other individuals:  former Minister of Public Security Nourredine Adam and anti-Balaka (Christian militia) political coordinator Levi Yakite.  Under the UN resolution imposing these sanctions, UN Member States must ensure that any funds, financial assets, or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any individuals or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of the sanctioned individuals.

In setting forth the basis for the new U.S. sanctions — which implement and expand on the UN sanctions — President Obama cited the “breakdown of law and order, intersectarian tension, widespread violence and atrocities, and the pervasive, often forced recruitment and use of child soldiers” in the CAR.  President Obama found that these circumstances threaten the peace, stability, or security of the CAR and neighboring states.  Among other things, the new Executive Order authorizes the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on persons:

  • who are involved, directly or indirectly, in activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the CAR;
  • persons who undermine democratic processes or institutions in the CAR;
  • persons who commit acts of violence against women, children, or other civilians;
  • persons who engage in conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law;
  • persons who recruit children into armed groups or forces;
  • persons who obstruct the delivery or distribution of, or access to, humanitarian assistance; and
  • persons who are involved in attacks against United Nations missions, international security presences, or other peacekeeping operations in the CAR.

The parties designated under the new Executive Order are the three individuals sanctioned on May 10 under the January 2014 UN resolution (Francois Bozize, Nourredine Adam and Levi Yakite), as well as two additional individuals:  Michel Djotodia, a former transitional president of the CAR who resigned in January, and Abdoulaye Miskine, a rebel leader.  As a result of these designations, U.S. persons are broadly prohibited from engaging in any transactions or dealings with these parties, or with any entities which are majority-owned by these parties, and from providing any funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of these parties.

It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will designate additional persons under the new Executive Order and whether these sanctions will have any impact on the conflict in the CAR.  However, as noted in a White House statement on the release of the Executive Order, it is clear that these new sanctions are intended to send a “powerful message that impunity will not be tolerated and that those who threaten the stability of the CAR will face consequences.”