Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
This week I was called twice by a persistent young man from Amnesty International asking me to make monthly donations. I listened to his spiel and agreed that the work Amnesty does is very important and that the situation in the Central African Republic is dire. I then explained that I make monthly donations to 3 worthy charities (Fred Hollows Foundation, Indigenous Literacy Fund, and UNICEF) and I volunteer my time to the very worthy Room to Read literacy charity. I pledged that rather than make donations to Amnesty International I would use my blog and social media to bring people to the Amnesty International website and I would continue to sign their petitions. So, in keeping with my pledge, I devoted a couple of evenings this week to researching the atrocious situation in CAR and I present it here to you in hopefully an unbiased and thorough way that not only places the conflict in context but also offers some suggestions for a lasting solution (albeit extremely difficult to achieve!).
Twenty years ago genocide occurred in Rwanda. Now lawlessness reigns in the Central African Republic (CAR) which is located in an unstable triangle bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Sudan and Chad. Around a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people have fled their homes.
The predominantly Muslim Seleka militia (meaning “alliance” in Sango, the national language) perpetrated widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the CAR in 2013. After a murderous rampage that started in the north-east, the Seleka spread out across the country, seizing the capital Bangui and ousting then-President François Bozizé in March 2013. Over the following 10 months, Seleka forces killed countless civilians, burned numerous villages, and looted thousands of homes.
Seleka abuses spurred the emergence of the loosely organized “anti-balaka” militia (“machete proof” in Sango), made up of Christians and animists opposed to Seleka rule. In the last four months of 2013, anti-balaka fighters carried out horrific attacks on Muslim communities, particularly in CAR’s northwest. On 5 December 2013 Anti-balaka militia attacked Bangui which led to an explosion of violence and an extensive series of reprisal attacks by Seleka against Christians in the city. As peace keeping troops slowly entered the country anti-balaka militia killed many hundreds of Muslim civilians, sometimes in large-scale massacres, looted Muslim homes and shops, and burned and destroyed mosques. Among their victims were women and young children; in some cases entire families were killed.
About 15 percent of Central Africans are Muslims, and for much of the country’s 54-year history, they lived in relative harmony with the Christian majority. But in the last year, CAR has collapsed—first in a spasm of political violence and now in a grisly carnival of factional and religious slaughter that has left it one of the very worst places on Earth.
In spite of its economic potential – rich in timber, gold, diamonds and uranium, CAR suffers from massive unemployment with 95% of its population living on less than US two dollars a day. There are only 20 registered businesses in the country and there is very little normal schooling. CAR is 180 out of 187 on the UN’s Human Development Index which is a composite index combining life expectancy, educational attainment and income. CAR is facing a famine this summer. Much of the violence has arisen due to political instability which has led to economic instability. Many of the young men were recruited to join the Seleka because they were promised jobs in the army but the jobs never materialized. And many of the young men involved in the anti-balaka are motivated because they don’t have work. Reverend Nicolas Guérékoyame, President of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic pointed out:
When a young person has a way to get his daily bread, he won’t be manipulated.
UN troops will not be deployed in CAR until September at the earliest. In the meantime, Rwandan peacekeepers have been a stabilising force, providing protection and escorts for Muslims to neighbouring Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwandan officer, Augustin Migabo, said that the only long-term solution to the conflict is through reconciliation:
Peacekeepers should protect those last Muslims from all attacks and force the two warring groups to live together.
If the Muslims don’t stay put, Migabo said, there could be an invasion from Chad in the future, leading to a much larger war, more like Rwanda in 1994.
According to this blog, to move to stabilisation four things are needed in CAR: