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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs