"The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa", crisisgroup

Africa Report N°215 1 Apr 2014

The full report is available in French.

Executive Summary


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The southward seasonal migration of pastoralists with their cattle is a source of friction that has long been ignored in Central Africa. In the last few years, conflicts between pastoralists and local communities have intensified because of a combination of factors: worsening security; climate change, which drives herdsmen further south; the multiplication of migration roads, especially transnational routes; the expansion of cultivated areas and an increase in cattle herds, which have deepened the competition for natural resources. Though security challenges related to pastoralism are not equally serious in the three countries examined in this report (Chad, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo), governments should take them seriously and promote a regulation of transhumance that includes all relevant actors.

Pastoralism generates wealth and economic interdependence between farmers and cattle herders in some African countries, but it also causes tension and conflicts. Most of these result from competition for vital resources such as water or pasturelands. In Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and north-east Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the conflicts appear to be especially complex, mainly because pastoral ecosystems go beyond national borders and transhumance creates new settlement fronts.

Transnational livestock migrations, particularly by Chadian herdsmen to CAR, have led to clashes between pastoralists and the local population. Even before the start of the CAR crisis in late 2012, violence had taken an alarming turn: after Chadian pastoralists looted their villages, several thousands CAR inhabitants fled their home and sought refuge in internally displaced camps in the country’s north. Weak bilateral cooperation between Chad and CAR on transhumance has contributed to an increase in violence, a change in cattle migration roads, and the emergence of new groups of pastoralists and livestock farmers with different motives and more weapons.

In Orientale Province, in DRC, the recent migration of Peul Mbororo herdsmen from several Central African countries has led to an often tense coexistence with the local population and the Congolese authorities. The latter have at times cracked down on pastoralists, at others started to accept their presence – a moratorium on expulsions was implemented in 2012. But the government has not provided an adequate and effective response to problems caused by the recent settlement of pastoralists in Orientale Province. It should consider their temporary regularisation, which would likely bring economic benefits to the province, in particular through the development of cattle farming in low-populated areas.

Some Sahel countries such as Niger or Chad have received support from donors to regulate pastoralism and have tried to mitigate conflicts. For their part, the CAR and DRC do not regulate transhumance and are unable to deal with increasing violence between communities. Moreover, other priorities top their security agenda. But while national authorities, located hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the rural areas affected, ignore frequent violence related to pastoralism, local populations, which are the main victims, cannot afford to do so. Deep-rooted issues can degenerate into intercommunal conflicts, and constitute a major factor in the confrontation between the Fulanis and anti-balaka militias in CAR.

The CAR and the DRC should regulate the movement of pastoralists by considering some of the measures implemented in Chad. Chadian authorities, together with international partners such as the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Union (EU), undertook to secure cattle migration roads, amend the pastoral code and reinforce the cattle farming sector. The CAR and the DRC should also take steps to improve peaceful coexistence between the Fulani community and the Congolese population, including by promoting a transhumance charter between the populations of Chad and the CAR.

The Congolese government, which intends to boost the agricultural sector, could carry out these measures immediately. In the CAR, implementation depends on the current crisis ending and tension between N’Djamena and Bangui calming. But discussing transhumance under the supervision of the regional organisation in charge of pastoralism before the cattle migration starts this year could be an opportunity to normalise relations between both countries and tackle a dangerous problem.


To anticipate migration of pastoralists southward and to prevent violence related to pastoralism in Chad

To the Chadian government:

1.  Deploy staff from the livestock ministry, in close partnership with representatives of nomad livestock farmers, on transhumance roads in order to monitor their itinerary and inform in advance local authorities that pastoralists are passing through their zone.

2.  Continue marking and organising transhumance roads and cattle resting areas, with the support of the French Development Agency, in order to slow down the migration southward.

3.  Deploy health services along transhumance roads and next to big cattle markets during the entire migration season.

To facilitate resource sharing between pastoralists and farmers

To the Chadian government:

4.  Harmonise the new pastoral and land codes by reforming the latter to address the problem of access to shared resources by pastoralists and farmers.

To supervise Chadian cattle migration to CAR

To the Economic Commission for Livestock, Meat and Fisheries Resources (CEBEVIRAH) and the Chadian and CAR governments:

5.  Organise a bilateral meeting under the supervision of the CEBEVIRAH to prepare the cattle migration season as soon as possible.

To the CEBEVIRAH, the French Development Agency, the World Bank, CAR and Chadian livestock farmers’ federations and livestock ministries:

6.  Monitor livestock migration to improve knowledge on cattle movements (itinerary, size of herds, concentration areas, etc.).

7.  Strengthen bilateral cooperation, following the 2012 CAR-Chad Commission, to regulate Chadian transhumance to CAR, by:

a) devising a charter that would provide for demarcation of migration roads in northern CAR,  vaccination areas and cattle markets next to the Chadian border, local conflict management and prevention committees and supervision of transhumance on the ground;

b) creating a conflict management committee within CEBEVIRAH to facilitate dialogue between authorities in Chad and CAR and resolve disputes related to violations of the charter; and

c) providing financial and logistical means to the National Federation of Livestock Producers from CAR (FNEC) and to the Confederation of Livestock in Chad so that they inform Chadian pastoralists about recommended itineraries and cultivated areas to avoid. Those organisations should be considered as an interface between pastoralists and CAR local authorities.

To foster peaceful coexistence between Mbororo livestock farmers and the local population in DRC’s Orientale Province

To the Congolese government, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and donors:

8.  Undertake a census and locate the Mbororo population in Orientale Province, with the support of traditional Mbororo leaders.

To the Congolese government and the European Union:

9.  Facilitate relationships and interactions between farmers and pastoralists through the construction of roads and market infrastructure for cattle.

To the Congolese government:

10.  Deliver long-term, renewable visas to Mbororo livestock farmers to resolve their legal situation.

To Mbororo livestock farmers:

11.  Observe Congolese law by paying, among others, taxes on meat sales.

To the Congolese provincial government and relevant UN agencies:

12.  Create a mission composed of the provincial government, traditional leaders, local authorities and foreign partners (eg, UN Habitat and the Food and Agriculture Organisation) in order to demarcate pasturelands located far from local farmers’ lands and close to water sources.

To local authorities, NGOs and donors:

13.  Implement a grassroots peace program for Mbororo pastoralists and local communities, create a consultation framework and gather together, in each conflict-affected territory, Mbororo and local traditional leaders, civil society and local administration representatives so as to improve mediation and mutual understanding.

Nairobi/Brussels, 1 April 2014