Central African Republic on the verge of genocide, France warns UN
The Central African Republic is “on the verge of genocide”, according to its former colonial master, France, which is urging the UN to authorise a stronger African peacekeeping force supported by French troops.
That is probably overstating it. Certainly religious tensions are on the rise between Christians and Muslims.
The comments on Thursday by Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, mark an escalation in French rhetoric on the crisis in Bangui.
The Central African Republic descended into a state of near-anarchy after the Seleka group, a mainly Muslim alliance of five rebel movements, seized the capital in March and ousted François Bozizé, a Christian, as president. He had led the country for 10 years after seizing power in a coup.
I doubt that current regime can survive. From what I have read the population is anywhere between 50% - 80% Christian with the muslim population making up about 15%. The regime is a Muslim regime and despite the transitional president Michel Djotodia dismissing formally the Seleka coalition from power it has done little to bring about any acceptance or legitimacy to his administration.
The rebels propelled into power President Michel Djotodia, who has subsequently lost control over the Seleka fighters. Since then the landlocked nation of 4.6m people has been largely lawless and the Seleka’s widespread acts of banditry have provoked raids and reprisals between Christians and Muslims.
The Guardian reports on some of the violence being inflicted on the community by the Seleka militias.
" One Man describes how his four-year-old son's throat was slit, and how he saw a snake swallowing a baby. A woman explains that she is caring for a young girl because her mother went searching for medicine and was bludgeoned to death with Kalashnikov rifles. A young man tells how he was bound and thrown to the crocodiles, but managed to swim to safety."
Zita Nganamodei with 18-month-old Arethas Demba, whose mother was bludgeoned to death after unknowingly crossing an arbitrary boundary while taking her daughter for medical treatment. Photograph: David Smith for the Guardian
Mr Djotodia is the first Muslim president in the majority Christian country. Most Seleka fighters are Muslim.
Djotodia is recognised only as an interim president, it would seem unlikely he will be able to restore order and I would expect his term in office to be short. He clearly hasn't got the support of the Christian community and by dismissing the Muslim Seleka from his administration it would seem he has no support base internally. I can't see the UN or the French propping him up and I doubt he will get any support from African leaders. Uganda I am betting is very pissed off with him and I wouldn't blame them.
A US state department official this week said the country was not in a genocidal situation but in a “pre-genocidal situation”.
I doubt this will go the way of the Rwandan genocide. That said I think that the UN needs to get a serious deterrent presence in on the ground and it might want to think about giving them a mandate that actually gives them an ability to engage hostile elements rather than reacting after the fact.
French diplomats fear that the Central African Republic is becoming a failed state and, similarly to Somalia in the Horn of Africa, might be used as a haven by extremist groups in a volatile region.
I would have thought that French diplomats might have been aware of the LRA and Joseph Kony who are by all accounts already in the CAR. It has also been reported again by the Guardian that Muslim fighter from neighbouring countries are already in the CAR.
" What started as a political movement against the corrupt and autocratic Bozizé is now taking on an ominously religious character. Nearly all the Seleka are Muslim, including mercenaries from neighbouring Chad and the notorious Janjaweed from Sudan's Darfur region. An "us and them" mentality of mutual distrust and paranoia is taking root, with some Christians taking up arms in vigilante militias known as "anti-" — meaning anti-sword or anti-machete — and committing atrocities of their own, giving the Seleka a pretext for yet more aggression. The spiral of violence has become a recruiting sergeant for thousands of child soldiers."
“It is total disorder,” Mr Fabius told France 2 television. “We must act quickly.” Lawlessness in the country has also enabled weapons to move freely in the region, western diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said.
A 2,500-strong regional peacekeeping force has been unable to halt the violence, even in the capital. Amid mounting international concern, the UN Security Council is due to vote in early December on a resolution that would allow neighbouring countries, the African Union and France, to send more soldiers.
This needs to happen and fast. I hope that the Intervention Brigade example is followed when it comes to mandating these troops. If civilians are at risk then preventative lethal force would not only seem reasonable but desirable.
France already has 400 troops on the ground guarding the international airport in the capital but wants UN backing to beef up its force to potentially beyond 1,000 soldiers, according to French diplomats.
Thibaud Lesueur, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said that French troops would provide “operational support” to the African peacekeeping mission rather than lead it.
France is in a difficult situation but at the very least France should be paying for this, 400 troops is a joke. France needs to make a decision rather than temporising as it did when the regime of Francois Bozize fell.
" French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stressed again on Friday that French troops were there only to protect French and European nationals, not fight the rebels."
The regional force is supposed to come under African Union control in December and expand to 3,600 troops but Mr Lesueur said that at least 6,000 peacekeepers would be necessary to help secure the capital and countryside.
Despite the urgency, Mr Fabius stressed that Paris’s involvement would be nothing like the large-scale intervention in Mali earlier this year, where France mounted a ground and air assault on Islamist militants. “It will not be as massive and as durable,” he said.
I think France needs to shit or get of the pot as the saying goes.
Paris and Washington are trying to reach an agreement on who will provide financial support to the African-led military mission. The US this week pledged $40m in support of the military intervention.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said on Wednesday that the transitional government did not have “the capacity or political will to end the violence, especially the abuses committed by elements of the Seleka rebel alliance that are affiliated with the government”.
It would seem the transitional government can't even exert its authority over the capital. Transitional is starting to look rather optimistic it should perhaps be known as the temporary government. That at least would be in the tradition of CAR regimes.
In recent months Seleka rebels have clashed with local self-defence groups, known as “anti-balaka”, or anti-machetes, and Christian militias. Western diplomats said the fighting between the two religious communities has increased in recent weeks, with groups attacking civilians.
Fighting has been especially fierce in the western region of Bossangoa, the home area of the former president, Mr Bozizé. Mr Lesueur, the analyst, said that Bossangoa was now divided into Muslim and Christian sectors. “You always have to be very careful when using words like genocide,” he said. “But it’s clear that we are seeing religious violence and tensions, and that’s a dangerous situation.”
It may be a little early to be describing it as genocide but religious persecution is certainly happening and a Christian backlash is certainly on the cards.