In recent days the year-long struggle in the Central African Republic has been brought to the attention of the United Nations. On December 5, the UN Security Council voted unanimously for French and African forces to “take all necessary measures” in dealing with the conflict. On December 10, a UN spokesperson announced that “more than half a million” people had been “displaced within CAR since the crisis began in December 2012.”

Rebels in the Central African Republic began making assaults against the government in December 2012 before overthrowing former President Francois Bozize in March. Though there was hope that the new leader who was put in place could quell some of the violence in the area, in recent months the violence has escalated into near civil-war conditions.

As it happens, the violence in this region is felt most acutely by those living in the capital city, Bangui. It has been estimated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that over 100,000 people living in Bangui have been displaced in the last year. These refugees have been living in dirty camps that leave the people residing in them vulnerable to infections and disease.

On November 25, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson explained that an estimated 1 out of every 3 people from the population of 4.6 million are in need of food, protection, health care, water sanitation and shelter. The UN had previously put forward a $195 million appeal to help in the nation, but it has not even been half-funded as of that date.

Moreover, some of the worst violence in the region has occurred near the northern border with Chad, prompting worries that fighting will spill over into that country. The recent bouts between Christian and Muslims have also raised concerns, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius saying that the country “was on the verge of genocide.”

Mass killings in Bangui have, furthermore, sparked these concerns with the various reports coming out this month.  According to a United Nations report, 450 people were massacred within city in 3 days, while others fled for the refugee camps. Given the hatred that has been fostered in the country, it may be some time before the situation could be settled.

France hopes that it can have a positive impact on this nation it once colonized. French and African Union troops have entered the Central African Republic since the UN Security Council voted to take action within the nation. The troops are working to disarm the various militia groups, with the hope that a stable government could be established.

Though Africa, as a continent, looks to be on the upswing, there are still terrible conflicts happening in the Central African Republic. These conflicts need to be noticed, and with the work that the UN is doing, more people are learning about the situation. With luck, a new year could bring new hope for this beleaguered nation.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: United Nations, New York Times, PBS
Photo: AFP

The Central African Republic made headlines recently when French troops entered the country on a peace-keeping mission sanctioned by the UN. Violence and uprisings are no strangers to the country that has endured intermittent conflict since becoming an independent nation in 1960. What is different now are the religious undertones of the violence that pits members of the loosely organized Muslim Seleka against the organically formed Christian militias, Anti-Balakas.

Christians represent the overwhelming majority in the country, but the Seleka, meaning “alliance,” have been in control since March through militarily seizing the government. The rebel group has been terrorizing the country for over two years through looting, mass rapes, executions, and abductions. Anti-Balakas, or anti-machetes, are weakly armed militia groups that have sprung up more recently in reaction. Though Seleka rebels are targets for the militias, unarmed civilians have more often been the victim of their rage. Most of those victims are Muslims and Seleka thugs have targeted Christians in reprisal attacks.A dangerous and volatile cycle is thus forming.

History has seen too many cases of violence between an ethnic or religious minority and majority. Most of which end tragically, leading observers to imagine the possibility of genocide when any religious or ethnic battle begins. After all, Sudan is a neighboring country and few have forgotten the atrocities committed in Darfur in the name of ethnic cleansing.

It is welcome news for many, then, that the French so quickly responded with a contingent of 1,600 troops, and the UN unanimously adopted a peace-keeping resolution further allocating funding for the 6,000 man Multinational Force of Central Africa to become under the control of the African Union and deploy in the region. Forces have already begun disarming militants on both sides and gaining ground in the capitol city, Bangui.

New “president” and former Seleka leader, Michel Djotodia, seems to be compliant with the disarming process and even requested humanitarian aid in one of his first moves after assuming control. He dissolved the rebel group and officially formed transitional government organizations almost immediately. These groups lack funding and power due to an absence of majority support and the country being in disarray.

Over 400,000 people are internally displaced and 2.3 million, or half the country, are in need of humanitarian assistance according to the UN. Most local security forces are controlled by Seleka forces that lack any coordination or central leadership. Some are attempting to restore order, actually policing other Seleka rebels, but no one can be sure who to trust and most of the rebels are intent on looting.

Rather than religious motivation, the Seleka power grab seems to be at least partially based on material desire in the mineral rich country. Rebels have consistently looted and Michel Djotodia only appears to want to hang on to political power for at least another 18 months, when he claims he will step down. The religiously motivated violence can be defused if international security forces continue to focus on disarmament and tempering the rebel looting.

Tyson Watkins

Sources: International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, New York Times, The Borgen Project, BBC News, United Nations, Al JazeeraABC News

In the Central African Republic (CAR) broils a sectarian conflict that has left 210,000 fleeing its capital and over 500 dead. Violent clashes between Muslim and Christian militias in the nation’s capital of Bangui have world leaders scrambling to avoid a possible genocide in the strife-ridden country.

In fear of the mass killings, kidnappings and rapes ravaging the capital, hundreds of refugees have risked boat rides across a branch of the Congo River to escape the violence while 40,000 have decided to camp outside the French-controlled Bangui airport, a place of stability and safety for the displaced Africans.

Half a century’s worth of political chaos has left the land-locked country easy pickings for its current rebel terrorists.

After the CAR gained freedom from France in 1960, it remained under despotic rulers for three decades. In 1993, the country began its first civilian rule, which fell a decade later to a military coup led by then rebel Francois Bozize. He instated himself as president and ruled uninterrupted until the rebel coalition Seleka, meaning “alliance” in the Sango language, overran the capital in March and ousted him.

Since the most recent coup, the country has fallen even further into disorder, with the dissembled rebel and Christian militias fighting one another. The reappointed Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, a former human rights lawyer, expressed dismay at the deterioration of his country.

“It’s anarchy, a nonstate,” said Tiangaye. “Looting, arson, rape, massacres of the civilian population—they are sowing terrorism.”

France sent 1,600 troops to support the African Union-led forces on the ground, with hopes that other United Nations forces will help to restore order to the area. A visit by Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, to CAR has reinforced her opinion that further action is necessary.

“I come away from our time in CAR very concerned about the extent of the polarization, the tautness of the society and the temptation that families and communities that have been victimized have to take justice into their own hands,” said Power.

Power’s fears arise from concerns that the conditions in the CAR may engender genocide. With both Christians and Muslims facing casualties, a desire for revenge may drive civilians to join militias. The Security Council passed a resolution to send 6,000 African troops to help bolster the 1,600 French troops already stationed. Whether that will be enough to quell the rebels, CAR refugees can only wait and see.

Emily Bajet

Sources: Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, BBC, BBCNew York Times, New York Times, New York Times, New York Times
Photo: The Washington Post

Since President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) was ousted by a coalition of fighters by the name of Seleka in March of 2013, the nation has devolved into anarchy.  Seleka leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president after the fall of Bozize’s government, but he has little control over his Seleka fighters.

The Seleka is a predominately Muslim, rebel coalition made up of several militia factions from the CAR’s civil war.  The Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, the Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country, the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity as well as other anti-government groups formed the alliance in mid-2012.

Djotodia cut ties with the group after they were blamed for attacks across the CAR.  In an interview with Al-Jazeera in early September, he admitted the Seleka no longer obey his orders.

On October 26, 2013, the Seleka forces of the CAR took part in a massacre a few miles outside Bouar, killing 18 people.  At least 10 people were killed at Bangui’s Amitie hospital after Seleka troops attacked patients.  Executions, rapes and burglaries by Seleka troops in predominately Christian areas have been reported.

A Christian militia called anti-balaka was formed to fight back against the Muslim Seleka.  The United Nations has expressed concern that the CAR situation may develop into a genocide given the historical tension between Christians and Muslims in the area.  With no legitimate governing body or police force there is a great risk of increased violence between the two groups.

As violence has escalated, President Francoise Hollande of France visited the country to evaluate the conflict.  So far, France has deployed 1,600 peacekeeping troops to the CAR with plans to send up to 6,000 if the fighting continues.

The African Union has sent 2,500 troops and plans to send more in the coming weeks. The U.N. has authorized foreign intervention using “all necessary measures” to support the efforts of the African Union and France.  The troops have been monitoring travel in and out of major towns, checking homes for weapons, and policing neighborhoods in an attempt to mitigate violence.

The United States has promised to donate $100 million in aid to the African Union’s efforts.  Al Jazeera reported that the funding will go to training, logistical operations, planning and non-lethal equipment.  State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf says “The United States remains deeply concerned about the horrific violence committed by the armed groups against innocent civilians.”

President Djotodia released a statement saying he will consider granting amnesty for the militia members in exchange for a ceasefire between the two groups.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America

The latest conflict driven food crisis has emerged and come to international attention by aid agencies. The thousands who have been displaced in the most recent outburst of violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) are being aided by the World Food Programme (WFP) and were recently visited by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Powers.

In Bangui and elsewhere in the country, fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis in which food is a top priority and a main concern for security. It is believed that hundreds of people have been killed in the country since the outbreak of conflict at the beginning of the month and insecurity makes it harder to deliver food to communities that need it. There are still reports of killing in the countryside and the turmoil as created a difficult situation to successfully deliver food aid in

Nearly 127,000 displaced people are in Bangui alone, and these numbers are only  expected to increase. The WFP is giving families rations of maize meal or rice, split peas, vegetable oil and salt. More food is being brought in, but stocks are quickly depleting. Many have gone for days without eating before receiving assistance from WFP-run sites. Activities are frequently disrupted by waves of violence

Seasonal harvesting in some parts of the country has been severely disrupted by the conflict. Aid agencies are scaling up to reach more than a million people in the CAR in 2014. Muslim and Christian fighters continue to carry out atrocities on both sides creating more need and making more families vulnerable.

With the visit of Powers, the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit the country, comes $15 million in humanitarian aid from the U.S. Her main focus on the trip was to try to lessen the violence in the country. Christian and Muslims have a history or inter-relations, but the country has been in chaos since the coup in March.

Powers is urging religious leaders to help promote peace and reconciliation and that the government must hold all militias to account

Without a break in violence, aid cannot successfully be delivered and only more will need assistance and food.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: NPR, World Food Programme
Photo: Vintage 3D

In December of 2012 a rebellion group formed under the name ‘Seleka’ marched through the Central African Republic, threatening to overthrow President François Bozizé for failing to follow through with the promises he made in 2007. Since then their reign has been one of terror and abduction, forcing people who are already living in the throes of poverty to adopt a life of fear and anticipation as well. Bozize has since been chased out of the country and the people of the Central African Republic are too afraid to take action against Seleka.

Translated the word Seleka simply means “coalition” in Sango. In January the group was estimated to have between 1,000 and 3,000 members. It is thought that they are made up of a collection of smaller groups allied together in opposition of the former president. However, government officials believe that the core of Seleka may be made up of a more varied cast of people, suggesting that the are harboring foreigners who wish to take control of the country’s mineral wealth. Some even believe that nationals from Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan are involved.

On March 24, 2013 Michel Djotodia marched into the capital Bangui with 5,000 Seleka fighters to seize control of the country. He immediately disbanded the parliament and suspended the constitution. And since then he and the Seleka fighters have waged a campaign of harassment and terror against the very people they claimed to protect. Unemployment has soared to 70% and the rebels take whatever they want, including computers used for education, solar panels, and even goats. Schools have shut down and electricity has become unavailable to the public.

Now the rebel group is no longer simply stealing from the people they claim to help, they are stealing the people as well. On a daily basis people disappear from their homes, schools, and the street itself. They are picked up by men in trucks and never seen again. If they are, they have been tortured or killed. The economy has collapsed entirely, most people are out of work, international aid workers have fled, and farmers are unable to tend to their fields because of all the violence. The country is on the verge of absolute disaster.

The self-proclaimed president of the country seems to be either unaware or uncaring of the reality of the situation. He is quoted in the New York Times as stating, “Peace has already returned to Bangui. When we came, it was like a miracle. It was God that willed it.” But the reality is that 173,000 people have been displaced from their homes since December. The Central African Republic has always been one of the poorest countries in the world and frequently fraught with conflict.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: CNN, BBC, USA Today, New York Times
Photo: BBC

The Central African Republic (CAR) has been plagued by a humanitarian crisis since the ouster of former President Francois Bozize by the rebel group Seleka. Since the former government was deposed in March of this year, CAR has fallen into a downward spiral of political instability. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia has indicated that elections will be held after an 18-month transition period during which he will remain in power. Yet only 4 months after the rebel takeover, CAR is already seeing the dire effects of its deteriorating security situation, particularly in the withdrawal of most aid organizations from the country.

Several UN agencies and multiple NGOs have pulled out of the Seleka-ruled CAR due to “lack of security.” Among them are UN agencies and organizations that had provided the aid which much of the population depended on for survival. According to data from 2011, 62% of the population of CAR was in poverty, and only half of its rural population had access to an “improved water source.” In such a state of poverty, and with such a shaky political standing, CAR is facing a grave crisis.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international organization also known as Doctors Without Borders, released a report in July explaining the grim reality faced by the citizens of CAR. Malaria cases, for example, have shot up since the Seleka takeover, with 33 percent more cases now than this time last year. Malnutrition and preventable disease have also become considerably more pronounced in recent months. MSF urges international agencies and organizations, from the United Nations to the European Union and African Union, to support CAR with funding and aid.

This week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement calling on the UN Security Council to take steps towards bringing stability to CAR. The country, he says, is suffering “a total breakdown of law and order.” The Security Council has not released a statement yet.

Lina Saud

Sources: The World Bank, BBC, Medecins Sans Frontieres
Photo: New York Times