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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More