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Poor timing may leave CAR to its fate

Rebels CAR

Rebels are running rampant throughout the Central African Republic terrorizing civilians

The people of the Central African Republic (CAR) may be left to fend for themselves. Despite the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis emerging in the country, conflict in other countries may overshadow the situation so much that the country will be left to its fate.

Scores of people were killed on September 9 amidst new clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR) between Seleka rebels and soldiers that support deposed former CAR president Francois Bozize. More than 60 people were killed during the violence which took place after Bozize loyalists seized the town of Bouca, just north of the CAR capital of Bangui. Seleka rebels led a coup d’état in March of 2013 to remove president Bozize who assumed power in similar fashion in March of 2003. Bozize fled to Cameroon but has expressed his desire to return to power if given the opportunity. Apparently he may have one.

Since the Seleka rebels successfully overthrew the Bozize administration and put interim president Michel Djotodia in power, reports of grave human rights and humanitarian violations have emerged from the war-torn country, including torture, looting, murder, arbitrary detention and rape. The violence has forced over 200,000 people to flee their homes with more than 60,000 seeking refuge in neighboring Chad and Cameroon.  CAR has become a lawless state and is threatening to become the next Somalia, run by brutal warlords where even humanitarian aid workers are not safe. Despite calling for elections in 18 months, the reality of Djotodia and Seleka abdicating power in a semblance of free and fair elections is unlikely.

Even in the best of times this landlocked nation of over four million inhabitants is still one of the poorest places on earth. The average citizen earns only about $800 per year, despite a vast mineral wealth.

Advocacy groups paint a bleak picture indeed with much of the population suffering from disease and malnutrition and thousands of children being forcibly recruited into Seleka ranks. The United Nations has discovered entire villages abandoned and burned in an effort for the warlords to control the country. Despite a call for action, Western countries have been slow to react to the increasingly diminishing situation within the country. Only France, as the former colonial master, has expressed any real desire for intervention.

Now problems that are out of the CAR people’s hands may cause the West to further flounder on providing any sort of meaningful support. Since reports emerged that the Assad regime in Syria used chemical weapons against its only people the Syrian civil war has dominated headlines. In addition, British and American administration has been focused on the Syrian situation as its importance has reached the pinnacle of international affairs consideration. Inevitably, this will hurt any chances of intervention in the CAR.

Intervention by Western nations in other country’s affairs in becoming less and less popular. At the end of August, the United Kingdom’s Members of Parliament voted against taking action in Syria, even with the reports of chemical weapons use. While a second vote could take place, it would only be possible if the situation drastically changed. A poll taken of the British people found that a majority was not in favor of strikes against Syria even if it is found that the Assad regime did use chemical weapons.

While the U.S. legislative branch has not yet voted on a Syrian strike, a poll taken of legislators shows that U.S. President Barack Obama has an uphill battle to overcome a strong dissent for Congress or Senate to pass any strikes.

These bleak situations of intervention in Syria by two of the largest military powers do not bode well for CAR. The Syrian civil war has been ongoing for considerably more time, and the use of chemical weapons makes the situation in Syria all that much more serious. If neither the U.K. nor the U.S. is willing to take action against a violation of international law, why would they vote to intervene in CAR?

France may be the CAR’s last hope and while French President Francois Hollande expressed desire to help their former colony, the situation on the ground in CAR will inevitable be pushed to the side until a decision can be made on Syria. France has willingly helped their former colonies in the past and maintains a small force at the Bangui airport, but since Hollande issued a statement almost at the end of August, no traction has been made on intervention to date. The reality may be that CAR civilians may have to wait. Unfortunately, the fallout from the mid 2000s wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq has left many Western super powers leery of even the slightest intervention. This means that the situation on the ground in CAR is bound to deteriorate further, leaving many more inhabitants and innocent civilians to flee or fend for themselves. While the situation in CAR looks bleak, due to international political circumstances, there’s no reason to hold out hope for improvement, at least until the global reality changes.

 

Author

Daniel Donovan
Daniel Donovan

Daniel is the Executive Director of a non-profit development organization that focuses on building infrastructure and training in rural Sub-Saharan Africa called the African Community Advancement Initiative (http://www.acainitiative.org/) . He has a Master's degree graduate in International Relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with his extensive financial background, Daniel also works as a consultant for Consultancy Africa Intelligence in Pretoria and the Centre for Global Governance and Public Policy in Abu Dhabi. In addition to his work at FPA, he is also a regular contributor to The Continent Observer and International Policy Digest. He currently resides in Denver, CO.

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