Genocide threats in the Central African Republic

Violence has taken its toll on peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers 

Genocide threats in the Central African Republic

Stephen O'Brien, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said, in a brief statement, that the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) had deteriorated to the point that "the early warning signs of a genocide" are there. So far, according to O’Brien, 180,000 people have had to leave their homes because of the violence. In total, there are now more than half a million people displaced in the country and half of the population is dependent on foreign food aid. “There is a risk that the humanitarian emergency will continue to worsen”, the politician affirmed.

O’Brien stated it was time to authorize an increase in troops and police serving in the U.N. peacekeeping force in the CAR, known as MINUSCA, to enable the mission to “deliver on its critical protection mandate”. The United Nation’s peacekeeping chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, affirmed he was considering sending a request to the United Nations Security Council for more troops for MINUSCA. Alexandre Sarr, head of the refugees’ agency UNHCR in Meiganga, across the border in Cameroon, confirmed that more than 6,800 people had arrived from CAR since July 10.

O'Brien said he was horrified by a visit he made to a Catholic church in the southern town of Bangassou where 2,000 Muslims took refuge while being surrounded by Christian fighters who are threatening to kill them.

Doctors Without Borders released a statement in which it claims that “the hospitals are no longer places of safety, and all armed personnel must not enter health facilities, and all groups must facilitate the evacuation of all sick and injured persons to medical facilities for medical care”.

The violence stems from deeper divisions created during the 2012-2013 crisis in which Seleka militants, from the country's northeast, overthrew the government of then-President Gen. Francois Bozize (allegedly with backing from some regional states). The chaos helped unleash violence and  ethnic cleansing, forcing France to intervene with the help of African allies, including Chad, to halt the bloodshed. Since then, the Central African Republic has moved to a democratically elected government, while implementing profound state control over the vast, isolated country.

These events sparked some of the bloodiest sectarian violence in the country's history; mainly Christian armed groups sought revenge. Christians, who account for about 80 percent of the population, organized vigilant units dubbed "Anti-balaka", a reference to the machetes used by the Muslim rebels. The proliferation of militant splinter groups with competing aims attests to this instability, complicating the ability of the U.N. mission and that of the Central African Republic's government to ensure order.

Nine MINUSCA peacekeepers have been killed this year, alarming authorities since it seems as if the country is sliding back to the bloodletting that exploded back in 2013 following the overthrow of Bozize; said organization and its mandate are only authorized in the African nation until November 15th. Only 24 percent of the $497 million dollars requested have been given to the mission of Central African Republic. O'Brien noted that  the lack of funding humanitarian operations will likely exacerbate the situation.

 

Latin American Post |  Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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