The United Nations (UN) will be making plans to follow the 1,400 troops from France into the Central African Republic (CAR) with support. Despite being urged to act in the CAR since September by French President Francoise Hollande, the United Nations only resolved to act on the reports of mass killings and escalating religious violence recently. They have expressed a hope that they might be able to send in peace-keeping support for those French forces and the 2,500 African troops which might become 6,000, soon.
Hollande is under a great deal of pressure from political rivals in France to avoid repeating past mistakes made intervening in African conflicts. Despite promising an end to intervention in the nation’s former colonies, Hollande recognized the scope of the problem and acted. Quite possibly it was only his success in managing French intervention in Mali shortly after assuming his office that afforded him the leeway with the legislature to make this move. France sent troops into the CAR to disarm the roving bands of Muslim fighters formerly of the Seleka militia which are responsible for the persecution of Christians in towns outside the capital. Because there are reports of retaliatory strikes by Christian fighters against Muslim targets, anyone not in the national barracks that has a weapon is being relieved of it.
Two of the 400 French soldiers who were first dispatched to the CAR were killed in the initial attempt to disarm militia members. The President, on his way back from a trip to South Africa, stopped in the CAR to salute those soldiers, and see the situation in person. All reports indicate that the situation is dire, and getting worse.
More than 10 percent of the nation’s population have reportedly fled to makeshift homes in the bush, trusting in the relative safety afforded there. Conditions, without fresh water or proper sanitary facilities, are deteriorating. While information coming out of the countryside beyond the capitol is sporadic at best, some members of the media have managed to make contact with some of those who are under siege. BBC reporter Paul Melly reports having seen and spoken to some of the population in hiding.
There is little to no food or water, and the entire population is terrified. Those brave enough to try and stay in their homes are said to run at the first sign of a vehicle. The former Seleka fighters have a reputation for entering town shooting, and for not leaving many survivors. Hundreds of people have been found dead in several locations, and conditions are ripe for a full scale civil war to be fought along religious lines. If the UN is not able to establish a presence and prevent further massacres, it might turn into a religious genocide. The United Nations have finally resolved to move, but if they follow the patterns established in the past, the delay in following France into the Central African Republic may result in many more deaths that critics will lay at their feet.
Despite the fact that these militias assisted the installation of new President Djotodia, he has given the United Nations thin disavowals of any continuing connection to the murders. Being that it is the Christians who opposed his rise to power being targeted, the denials ring hollow. The quarantine of his troops in the capitol provides him an alibi for any actions of the rogue militias. Meanwhile men, women, and children are murdered in ever-increasing numbers.
Indications are that it is time for people to exercise the potential of the worldwide community, and to speak out on whichever media is available to them about their unwillingness to tolerate the type of murder and destruction that is being inflicted on the CAR. Support for the troops already stationed there is now coming in slowly, and more significant numbers of peacekeepers are en route. Though it is by no means certain, the potential for this to end quickly still exists. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen . It is of little consolation to the people already massacred mercilessly, either way. The eyes of the world will be watching as the United Nations finally agrees to follow France into the Central African Republic so that accountability will not be escaped by anyone involved in the atrocities that are only beginning to come to light.
by Jim Malone