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A violent and brutal conflict is underway in the Central African Republic. Although English-speaking media has only recently began to pay real attention to the progress of the conflict, the current phase of violence goes as far back as January 2013, and is deeply intertwined with the history of the country. At its simplest, the conflict apparently pits the Muslim Seleka rebels against the Christian anti-balaka militia groups. Yet the seemingly random lynching of individuals, notably minutes after a presidential address in Bangui, which has brought the crisis in the CAR to the attention of the non-Francophone world, suggests that even these categories may be insufficient. Four individuals have occupied the CAR presidency since March 2013, and even though the country made the history books recently by appointing as transitional leader the third female head of state in contemporary Africa, there is little to celebrate as the fighting escalates in scale and in brutality. Is this just another case of "Africans gone mad"? Are poor people really so irrational that they would begin to randomly massacre each other in broad daylight on the basis of their religion? Or is there more to this story?The first position suggests intractability: History suggests that violent religious or ethnic differences are rarely resolved militarily, unless one side is completely exterminated literally or figuratively through deportation or state cleavage. The second urges a more thorough review of the less obvious factors that are contributing to the violence, which if addressed, may go some way towards reducing it if not addressing it entirely.Three such factors in the CAR merit further attention. First, the CAR is part of a conflict system that involves South Sudan, Sudan, northern Uganda, north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad (not to mention the tacit involvement of neighbouring countries like Rwanda and Cameroon). My theory of conflict systems argues that as primarily economically driven conflicts, modern wars are rarely self-contained. Instead they form part of an economic and social network that links discrete points of violence within a region, where one player at one point may seek to exacerbate a conflict in another region for profit, to deflect attention from domestic problems, or to support historical allies in exchange for support against domestic opponents.Conflict systems generally correlate to pre-colonial social networks and post-colonial economic systems. In the CAR, although geographically, the current war is occurring in a separate independent political entity, it is also part of a broader system of violence that links to ongoing or apparently unresolved conflicts in the region. Historical exploitation through the slave trade, similar patterns of colonisation and neo-colonial economic pressures that unite the Sahelian mining belt, link CAR as much to the DRC as to Sudan or Chad.