News / Africa

Lawless CAR Attracting Terrorists’ Attention

Seleka rebels, seen here July 15, 2013, in the town of Bria, Central African Republic. overthrew the previous president in March, and are accused of continuing to carry out atrocities in some of the most isolated corners of the country.
Seleka rebels, seen here July 15, 2013, in the town of Bria, Central African Republic. overthrew the previous president in March, and are accused of continuing to carry out atrocities in some of the most isolated corners of the country.
Hannah McNeish
A power vacuum and the total absence of law and order in the vast, sparsely populated Central African Republic could be luring terror groups from across Africa.  A senior United Nations official says there are indications that Nigeria’s Boko Haram is on the ground.
 
Carved out by colonialism and marred by coups since independence in 1960, the broken heart of Africa has received little attention from the outside except from former ruler France, diamond dealers, big game hunters and cross-border rebel groups.

Experts say all the elements exist to attract militants who are looking to set up shop, hide, or hijack the country's increasingly sectarian conflict that has seen Muslims and Christians turn against one another for the first time.

Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who declared himself president over the weekend after his soldiers seized the capital, meets with members of the government armed forces, in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 28, 2013.Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who declared himself president over the weekend after his soldiers seized the capital, meets with members of the government armed forces, in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 28, 2013.
x
Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who declared himself president over the weekend after his soldiers seized the capital, meets with members of the government armed forces, in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 28, 2013.
Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who declared himself president over the weekend after his soldiers seized the capital, meets with members of the government armed forces, in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 28, 2013.
CAR's de facto President Michel Djotodia enlisted bands of Muslim rebels -- including mercenaries from Chad and Sudan and bandits calling themselves “Seleka”, or alliance -- to help him seize power eight months ago.  

According to CAR Justice Minister Arcene Sende, they were joined by 1,500 prisoners, a third of whom were convicted of murder.


Analysts say the initial “Seleka” forces of a few thousand -- who took power in March -- have multiplied in the wake of mass impunity for looting, rape and killing.  Analysts suggest the number could now be as large as 25,000.  The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that 3,500 children have been co-opted into the ranks.

CAR’s home-grown terror combined with its diamond, gold and ivory riches are a draw for armed groups chased from elsewhere in Africa by regional and international forces.
 
Edmond Mulet, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations at the United Nations in New York, said the complete absence of a working government in CAR is similar to northern Mali in 2012 -- where Islamist groups affiliated with al-Qaida stepped into the political vacuum and took over.

Major attacks blamed on Nigeria's Boko Haram
 
2009
  • July - Attacks prompt government crackdown in Bauchi and Maiduguri; 800 people killed
 
2010
  • December - Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86
 
2011
  • June - Attack on a bar in Maiduguri kills 25
  • August - Suicide bomber kills 23 at U.N. building in Abuja
  • November - Bombings in Damaturu and Potiskum kill 65
  • December - Christmas Day bombings across Nigeria kill 39
 
2012
  • January -- Gun and bomb attacks in Kano kill up to 200
  • February - Maiduguri market attack kills 30
  • June - Suicide car bombings at three churches kill 21
  • July - Attacks in Plateau state kill dozens, including two politicians at a funeral for the victims
 
2013
  • February - French family kidnapped in Cameroon, held hostage for two months
  • April - Fighting with troops in Baga kills up to 200; residents say troops set deadly fires
  • May - Attacks in Bama kill more than 50
  • July - Gunmen kill 30 at a school in Yobe
  • August - Gunmen kill 44 at a mosque outside Maiduguri
  • September - Gunmen kill 40 students a dorm in Yobe
  • October - Attack Yobe state capital Damaturu, clash with military in Borno state
Mulet told VOA he thinks the first ones to arrive in the CAR in may be the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram - who are already present in neighboring northern Cameroon.  

“I don't think about al-Shabab, but certainly Boko Haram we have some indications that there is some kind of a presence here," said Mulet.  "In different places, different elements are really already trying to get hold of some presence in the country.”

CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye did not want to talk to VOA directly on the issue of Boko Haram - but said concern would not be unfounded.  

“I can't talk to you about it.  It's just because you brought it up … but it's not enough to confirm it yet," said Tiangaye.  "In any case, for the jihadists yes, we have some elements, we have some elements.  For now, we don't have all the elements to confirm their effective presence.”
 
This month the United States officially designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organization.  The group seeks to impose strict Islamic law across Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north and has killed thousands in attacks going back to 2009.  

The Nigerian government has the northeast under a state of emergency and the military is waging an intense offensive - which may be forcing militants to consider new bases outside its borders.

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.
x
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.
CAR has long been a favorite hideout of brutal warlord Joseph Kony, whose Lord's Resistance Army has terrorized communities in nearby Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for decades.  

U.S. special forces have been assisting thousands of African soldiers in hunting for Kony - who has a $5 million bounty on his head.   

With the growing international involvement against terrorism in Africa, the question arises whether alluding to Boko Haram’s presence in the CAR isn’t a tactic to elicit more foreign funds and soldiers on the ground.
 
General Babacar Gaye, who heads the U.N. peacekeeping mission in CAR, said fears over global terror groups is secondary to the massive humanitarian, security and human rights problems that has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes and left a third of the population in need.

“For the time being, we don't need to have the presence of any terrorists groups to be mobilized and concerned by the situation," said Gaye. "I can assure you that the people of the ground, their suffering is worth mobilizing the international community to stabilize this country and alleviate the suffering.  We don't need to have Boko Haram to mobilize people.”

The U.N. has warned that “the seeds of genocide” are being sown in CAR.  But with so few watching the forest-covered country, it will be hard to know when, or if, terror groups take root, or mass violence begins.

Photo Gallery: Crisis in CAR

  • The bishop of Bossangoa fears a growing sectarian divide following gross human rights violations on civilians, Nov. 10, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A girl stares out the window at Bossangoa chuch's Sunday prayers. Over 36,000 people are living at the site. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • Regional peacekeepers at an abandoned village on the road south of Bossangoa, Nov. 13, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A regional peacekeeper surveys an abandoned village on the road south from bossangoa, surrounded by untouched fallen fruit, Nov. 13, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A ragged child cries out for food at Bossangoa's packed Catholic mission, where over 36,000 people have sought refuge from violence, Nov. 10, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A malnourished child being fed at a clinic in Bossangoa, Nov. 9, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • Khadija Umani was on a truck attacked by self-defence groups, who separated Muslims from Christians and executed 7 men. She and around 2000 other Muslims are seeking safety in a school, Nov. 11, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A girl waits at Bossangoa hospital, where medics are treating a high number of children for malaria, malnutrition, anaemia and violence-related injuries inlcuding gunshot wounds, Nov. 9, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A family squatting at Bossangoa hospital, where over 1000 people have sought refuge from widespread killing, rape and extortion by de facto state forces, Nov. 9, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)

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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
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 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.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid