News / Africa

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Fears Genocide in CAR

US actress and Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF Mia Farrow (C, L) takes part in a mass at the Bossangoa cathedral, Nov. 10, 2013.
US actress and Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF Mia Farrow (C, L) takes part in a mass at the Bossangoa cathedral, Nov. 10, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow warns the Central African Republic is on the verge of genocide because of growing ethnic and religious tensions between Muslims and Christians.  The actress and human rights activist is calling for urgent international intervention to protect the civilian population and stave off a potential blood bath.

Farrow calls the Central African Republic a failed state.  She said the government is absolutely useless and unable to stem the violence, which is out-of-control.  

Farrow has just returned from a weeklong trip to the CAR, her third visit to this conflict-torn country since 2007.   What she finds most alarming, she said is the growing hostility between Muslims and Christians.  She says these communities, which previously had lived harmoniously, are now separated.

She said they have formed two armed groups, which are attacking each other’s civilian populations along religious and ethnic lines. “There are the seeds, the seeds are present for a genocide.  You have the ethnic components.  You have the armed groups.  You have ongoing atrocities of the worst kind and you have a very, very imperiled civilian population,” she stated. 

Farrow says her assessment of this frightening possibility echoes that of other U.N. officials, notably U.N. humanitarian chief John Ging.

She is calling for a high-level diplomatic intervention to protect the civilian population and aid agencies in the CAR.   She said the U.N. needs a larger force and stronger mandate to try to bring some stability to the country.

UNICEF reports that one-half of the CAR’s 4.6 million people are under the age of 18.  It says some 400,000 people have fled their homes since December of last year, when the Seleka rebels began their rebellion against President Francois Bozize, who they ousted in March.

It says people have fled with little more than the clothes on their backs.  It said families are too afraid to return to their fields and are unable to produce food to feed themselves.  It says seven out of 10 children are still out of school.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Farrow said the worsening situation in the country is taking a particularly heavy toll on women and children.  She said it is past time for the world to pay attention to the dire needs of people in that country. “It has been referred to as a forgotten crisis.  But, I think that is a misnomer because that implies that it was once remembered.  I think it is more appropriate to refer to Central African Republic as an abandoned population because the world has really looked away,” she stated. 

Farrow said she understands the difficulty of getting people to pay attention to the CAR while they are fixated on the horrific events unfolding in the Philippines and Syria.  

And, yet, she said she believes the world has the means and the compassion to come to the aid of the children in the Central African Republic who, after all, are of equal value to children in other countries of crises.

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