News / Africa

CAR Residents See Crisis as Political, Not Religious

  • Soldiers from the AU peacekeeping mission prepare to leave at the end of a speech given by Alexandre Nguendet, the head of Central African Republic's transitional assembly at the Gendarmerie headquarters in Bangui on Jan. 13, 2014.
  • Central African transitional parliament chief Alexandre Nguendet gives a speech in Bangui, Jan. 13, 2014.
  • People react to a speech given by Alexandre Nguendet, the head of Central African Republic's transitional assembly in Bangui, Jan. 13, 2014.
  • French soldiers man a street beside in Bangui, Jan. 12, 2014.
  • An anti-balaka soldier in Ouengo district in Bangui, Jan. 12, 2014.

Images from the Central African Republic

Anne Look
The Central African Republic is in the grips of unprecedented conflict that pits Muslims against Christians and Christians against Muslims. But as new transitional authorities try to restore order in the capital, residents say this crisis is political, not religious and the solutions to country's problems lie in the political sphere.  

"There is no religious crisis," said Bangui resident Brice Ngagoui. "It's just political manipulation because the rebels that came to power, [President Michel] Djotodia, are majority Muslim. Politicians took this community affiliation to give a religious connotation to this crisis. But in reality there is not an inter-religious crisis."

He and others told VOA that violence in the capital over the past month stemmed from opposition to ex-rebel leader turned interim president, Djotodia.

Djotodia resigned Jan. 10 under regional pressure, something residents said could be a step toward easing tensions. The country's National Transition Council will elect a new interim president.   

Year of abuses

As rebels pushed south toward Bangui in early 2013, the president they would oust, Francois Bozize, was making speeches referring to "mercenary-terrorists" and "foreigners" coming to "Islamize" the country.

In the months before Bozize was ousted, there were reports of abuses by rebels in the provinces, along with reports that young armed Bozize supporters in the capital were attacking Muslims perceived to be from the north.

The Seleka coalition of rebels didn't profess an Islamist agenda.  But they did want power, and things got worse when they took it in March.

Rebels and armed men, some of them Chadian or Sudanese, destroyed villages and killed civilians. Rebel leaders had little or no control.

Militias comprised mainly of Christian men rose up to fight back but were accused of taking their revenge against Muslim civilians, not rebels.

Things came to a head when anti-Seleka fighters attacked Bangui on Dec. 5. That spun out into weeks of inter-communal slaughter in the city that prompted the deployment of French and regional peacekeepers.

"This crisis has its origin in abuses, the theft, the rapes, the looting orchestrated by Seleka fighters since they took power," said Bangui resident Paul Namsene, adding that people are associating all Muslims with Seleka.

"This crisis comes from the suffering endured by the population at the hands of Seleka," he said. "The bigger Central African crisis, it's a problem of governance. So the new authorities that will be chosen need to work in the interest of the people. It is only then that we will be able to find a real solution."

Leadership vacuum

Regional analysts say the Bozize government sowed the seeds of its own overthrow.

Bozize took power in a coup in 2003 and then, fearful of another coup, proceeded to further hobble an already weak army.  He, like his predecessor, consolidated power in the hands of his relatives and supporters, breeding resentment.

The government signed peace accords with rebels in the north in 2007 and 2008 but then failed to follow through on the terms.

Analysts say the rebel leaders weren't much better - they put personal gain from those deals over development for the north, thereby contributing to a continued sense of regional marginalization.

A national historian at the University of Bangui says Bozize mismanaged the country but there's blame to go around.  

"Who asked Seleka to come? Nobody," Henri Yenzapa said.  "Nobody asked Seleka to come. And when they did come, they should have done what Mr. Bozize didn't do, what his government did not do, but they came and plunged the country into crisis, into grief. When you replace someone you are criticizing, you have to do better than him…but the country has fallen and that is why I say that the blame is shared."

The solution is to restore order in the short term and then hold elections as soon as possible, Yenzapa said.

Thousands have been killed since the Seleka takeover last March. On Monday, the U.N. refugee agency said more than one million have been displaced from their homes.

Jose Pouambi contributed to this report from Bangui.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid