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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid