The Central African Republic is the scene of a genocide of ethnic-religious origins. Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, the international community cannot stand idly by.
The Central African Republic is a landlocked French-speaking country located precisely in the centre of Africa, it is rich in resources (uranium, oil, gold and diamonds). Lately, some say belatedly, is in the centre of attention of the international community as it is in an ongoing internal conflict that is becoming more and more, as pointed out by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, frighteningly close to becoming a genocide; more specifically of ethnic cleansing.
SELEKA AND ANTI-BALAKA
It all began March 24, 2013 when a coalition of armed rebel movements called Seleka took power in a coup deposing the then-President François Bozizé and proclaiming their leader, Michel Djotodia, President of CAR.
So far, it might seem yet another episode of political instability, almost endemic to the African continent. Immediately after seizing power, however, Michel Djotodia failed to control his former militiamen who are guilty of various crimes against civilians that are starting to take more and more the shape of religiously motivated crimes.
Although the Seleka is not an overtly religious movement or driven by motivations and religious ideologies, it is composed mainly of Muslims; not surprisingly it was born in 2012 in the north-east of the country, where the majority of the 15% of Muslims in the country, that is predominantly Christian, reside. In September 2013 Djotodia announced a dismantling of the Seleka coalition, and the leaderless militants continued spreading terror around the country.
It is precisely at this time that groups of so-called anti-Balaka began to emerge (balaka in Sango, the other official language along with French, means machete or sword, a weapon often wielded by the militiamen of Seleka) . These were self-defence forces of the Christians villages who literally began to hunt down the ex-Seleka, starting soon, however, not to make any distinction between “Muslim” and “former members of Seleka.”
Meanwhile, in January, Djotodia was forced to take a step back; in his place was appointed an interim with a clear mandate to end the violence in the country: Catherine Samba-Panza, the first woman president in the history of the CAR.
It is a daunting task. In the country there is continuing violence against the Muslim population: torture, mutilation, lynching, and looting shops or homes or places of worship for Muslims. Most were forced into exile (there are already 350,000 refugees in neighbouring countries: Chad, Cameroon, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo), to flee their homes (450,000 IDPs) or to remain held up in their neighbourhoods in a climate of terror. There is of course the revenge of the ex-Seleka, not least the attack on the church Notre Dame de Fatima in Bangui, the capital, which killed 17 people. Many observers, including Ban Ki-moon, review the development of the violence to resemble the Rwandan genocide, which marked its twentieth anniversary this year.
To date, there is no precise data on the number of people killed since the crisis began.
WHAT ARE THE REACTIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY?
France was the first to intervene in December 2013 with the Sangaris missions. This did not have the sympathy of the population for obvious reasons: the colonial legacy and the fact that France is being accused of being ‘too’ light ‘with the anti-Balaka.
The African Union has deployed the MISCA mission. It is important to consider the withdrawal of the Chadian soldier who, being Muslim, were accused of being too close to the ex-Seleka, and the presence (not surprisingly) of a large group of Rwandan forces.
The EU launched, on the 10th April, the EUFOR CAR mission with the aim of substituting the French mission whilst waiting for the blue helmets.
The United Nations, as well as authorising the above three interventions with the Security Council resolution 2127 of 2013, approved, on 10 April, the 2149 resolution that created the MINUSCA mission (10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers).
These forces will be deployed next September. Lets just hope its not too late.
Blue helmets is the name used to refer to the UN peacekeeping forces