News / Africa

Chaos in CAR Raises Regional Concerns

Displaced residents fleeing sectarian violence were cordoned off by military at the airport at Bangui, Central African Republic in late August when the airport was temporarily shut down.
Displaced residents fleeing sectarian violence were cordoned off by military at the airport at Bangui, Central African Republic in late August when the airport was temporarily shut down.
VOA News
A report issued October 29 by Amnesty International details “unprecedented” levels of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic.  Gang rapes, torture, executions and the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers have become commonplace, according the report, since a coalition of rebels who call themselves Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize in March.
 
Since then Michel Djotodia, a little-known rebel leader and self-appointed president has presided over growing chaos.   Most public services do not function and shops have been closed in Bangui, the capital, while dissident rebel factions continue to roam the countryside killing and looting in a conflict observers see as a growing sectarian struggle.
 
Seleka rebels entered the capital in December of last year. The rebels are described as predominantly Muslim, from northern provinces and from neighboring countries. The Seleka shared power with Francois Bozize, the president of the last 10 years, until he was ousted and Djotodia declared himself interim president. The violence escalated three months ago when Djotodia banned the rebel forces that brought him to power and ordered them to disarm.
 
“Outside the capital the government can’t control anything,” said the Brookings Institution’s Amadou Sy, who called the CAR a failed state. Even the newly appointed prime minister, former human rights lawyers Nicolas Tiangaye, calls conditions in his country “catastrophic.” He told a New York Times reporter last month that the country is “a non-state.”
 
Self-proclaimed transitional president Michel Djotodia, right, met with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, center, to discuss the crisis at UN offices in Nairobi, July 31, 2013.Self-proclaimed transitional president Michel Djotodia, right, met with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, center, to discuss the crisis at UN offices in Nairobi, July 31, 2013.
x
Self-proclaimed transitional president Michel Djotodia, right, met with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, center, to discuss the crisis at UN offices in Nairobi, July 31, 2013.
Self-proclaimed transitional president Michel Djotodia, right, met with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, center, to discuss the crisis at UN offices in Nairobi, July 31, 2013.
"The priority is security, security, security,” said European Union aid chief, Kristalina Georgieva, recently in the capital city of Bangui. Georgieva cited tuberculosis and malnutrition as immediate concerns for thousands who have been displaced. An estimated 400,000 civilians have been displaced by the violence. “Unless there is a rapid increase in peacekeeping forces to reverse this looting, it will be very hard to get sufficient help to people," she said.
 
Hollande concerned about regional threat
 
“There is also an emergency at a regional level…” said President Francois Hollande of France earlier in October in Pretoria where he was seeking South African support to manage Central African Republic’s recent crisis.
 
“Pay very close attention to what the French are doing,” said Sy of the Brookings Institution. “Whatever solution occurs, it will involve the French. This is part of the French sphere of influence.”
 
The Central African Republic is the center of violence and unrest in what experts now describe as Africa’s “arc of insecurity” that stretches from Somalia on the east coast to Mauritania on the west coast.
 
Ben Shepherd of Chatham House said the Central African Republic “has acted as a safe haven for dissatisfied militants from across the region.”
 
“There is a huge humanitarian crisis in most of the provinces,” said Gaston N’Guerekata, a math professor at Morgan State University who was recently in Bangui. “The people are living in the bushes like beasts with no food, no health care.”
 
“Economic life is very marginal because everything has been destroyed. Businesses belonging to non-Muslims have been destroyed. People have no money and civil servants haven’t been paid for months,” he said.
 
In addition to roaming gangs of hundreds of Seleka rebels, a large remnant of the terrorist Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda is reported to maintain a presence near the diamond mines in the east.  The Washington Post reports the U.S. military recently increased the frequency of its drone and surveillance flight activity over the region, as part of the ongoing regional effort to target Joseph Kony, the messianic leader of the LRA. 
 
Sectarian tensions increase
 
“We might witness a religious conflict,” Hollande said during a press conference in Pretoria. Brookings’ Sy said religious conflict is evident in Bossangoa in the north and Bangassou in the east, where the archbishop and the imam of Bangui traveled to quell clashes between Muslims and Catholics.
 
Observers say that a large portion of the Seleka are Muslims recruited from Chad and in Sudan, where Djotodia – a Muslim - is reported to have worked as a civil servant during the Bozize regime.
 
Shepherd of Chatham House says the makeup of the Seleka movement is more a reflection of the country’s “historic pattern of bringing in hired gunslingers from across the region.” It reflects Muslim marginalization in the region rather than a meaningful local Islamization. 
 
There have been reports of Seleka destroying Christian churches, and attacking people believed to be Christians.  In response militias formed by Christians have been formed to target Muslims.  
 
Challenge for peacekeepers
 
A UN Security Council October 10 resolution gives Djotodia’s interim government 18 months to hold new elections, and demands that rebels disarm and allow humanitarian aid to enter the country where an estimated 400,000 people have been displaced by the violence. The resolution also approved support for the African-led AU mission. The Security Council will in November consider economic sanctions and the possibility of upgrading the peacekeeping mission to a UN force and taking on the coordination of a range of forces, including Ugandan troops reportedly chasing down LRA rebels in the east of CAR.
 
The Africa Union has between 1,400 and 2,500 peacekeeping troops from neighboring countries. The French government sent 400 troops to protect French national interests in this former French colony and is considering sending another 250 in the coming months. South Africa withdrew its contingent from the CAR when 14 South African peacekeepers were killed by rebels during Djotodia’s takeover in Bangui.
        
“The tragedy seems to be that this country has been ignored for many years,” said Shepherd. “It’s the ultimate orphan. There is so little for anyone to fight for. I think it will remain a chaotic patchwork of individualized and localized issues.”
 
Reporter Hannah McNeish contributed to this report.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs