Although a new United Nations (U.N.) report claims it is too early for the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic to be considered an ethnic cleansing or genocide, the international community needs to act soon before this violent conflict develops into something more serious.
This report seems to clash with a previous U.N. human rights report that claimed ethnic cleansing transpired in the months of fighting between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic.
Since the fighting began in December, the death toll has reached into the thousands and hordes of Muslims have left the country in fear. Children have been beheaded and entire villages have been burned to the ground. Unfortunately, the Central African Republic, one of the world’s most poverty-stricken countries, has been abandoned by its seemingly powerless transitional government.
Muslim rebel forces, known as Seleka, have been blamed for atrocities against civilians during their 10-month rule. Violence by Christians ensued after the rule ended in January.
The report states, “The fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda from certain non-Muslim quarters does not mean that genocide is being planned or that there is any conspiracy to commit genocide or even a specific intent to commit genocide.”
Amnesty International objected to this statement: “I would say that … the report is ignoring the fact that the massive displacement of the Muslim population in the Central African Republic is not simply a consequence of the violence there, but its goal,” senior crisis response adviser Joanne Mariner states. Christian militia fighters “have made no secret of their intent to kill or forcibly expel all Muslims from the areas under their control.”
The report warns that if the international community does not react quickly, the situation will worsen and could potentially lead to genocide and ethnic cleansing.
There is a significant inadequacy of peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and the 2,000 French troops and 5,800 African Union peacekeepers lack the ability to subdue the violence.
If the international community wants to prevent this tragedy from worsening, protection on the ground needs to be enhanced. Forces would have to defend sites and shield displaced persons more diligently. A.U. and French forces would need to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians.
The U.N. Security Council aims to deploy 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers to the Central African Republic. But this action will not happen until Sept. 15, 2014, and the troops will only be on the ground through April 2015. Additional African countries would have to join the A.U. force, and the U.S. and E.U. countries would also have to increase their involvement.
The transitional government is not adequate and it needs immediate support from donors and international experts to restore it. Only 31 percent of the U.N.’s appeal for humanitarian aid has been matched. It is essential for donors to pay their outstanding pledges as the conflict worsens.
— Colleen Moore