The ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is not a ‘religious’ war. As in other cases, it is a politically-motivated conflict between people that happen to be members of different religions. And behind this all-too-familiar, opportunistic and now uncontrolled misuse of religion stands Michel Djotoda, a key leader of the Seleca rebellion, which lasted from December 2012 through March 2013, and the CAR’s beleaguered president from 24 March 2013 until 10 January 2014.
The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has left humanitarian organisations, international peacekeepers and observers frantically searching for solutions to stop the conflict. Now, to make matters worse,the Afghan Taliban and the notorious al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – which, together with its allies, occupied northern Mali in 2012 – have denounced what it describes as the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Muslims in the CAR. AQIM also issued a warning against France for its alleged complicity in the violence, saying the ‘supposed peacekeepers’ have launched a ‘crusade against Islam’ and that France will be punished for doing so. Given that ordinary Muslims in the CAR are clearly being targeted and tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing the country, should this threat be taken seriously?
David Zounmenou, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) believes that AQIM is still smarting after its defeat against France in Mali last year and that their warnings are not to be taken lightly. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also met last week to discuss the situation in the CAR and has pleaded for dialogue and national reconciliation – another sign that the crisis has now taken a decidedly religious turn. Yet, Zounmenou strongly warns against casting the conflict in the CAR in the same mould as other crises in Africa that are rooted in conflict between locals and radical Islamist groups, such as in Mali or Somalia. » More
Editor’s note: this article was first published on JiC on 11 December 2013.
The Central African Republic (CAR) is “descending into chaos“. In the past few months, violence and instability in the country have proliferated. In November, the French Foreign Minister even used the ‘g-word’ to describe the situation in the CAR, declaring that ”[t]he country is on the verge of genocide”. Jean Ging, of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, similarly suggested that the country is sowing the “seeds of genocide“.
In response to the crisis, the international community has immersed itself knee-deep into another military and humanitarian intervention. [In the week of 2 December 2013], the UN Security Council unanimously authorized France and African Union forces to use “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. The African Union and the UN Security Council have their work cut out for them. In endorsing international intervention into the CAR, the International Crisis Group stated: » More
In August, United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned that ‘the Central African Republic [CAR] is not yet a failed state, but has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken’. This warning became all the more real when on 13 September Michel Djotodia, the interim president of the CAR, decided to dissolve the rebel coalition Seleka, which he had headed during the December 2012 rebellion that led to the overthrow of General Francois Bozizé, the CAR’s former president.
Through the decision to disband Seleka and by threatening to subject anyone acting on behalf of the rebel movement to the full might of the law, Djotodia has sought to reaffirm his authority in a country that desperately needs credible leaders and functioning institutions. This might also be a charm offensive in response to pressure from regional leaders and external partners. And while his decision could be seen as a bold move to curb the growing number of atrocities committed by members of the armed coalition, the risk of rampant instability or renewed armed conflict looms large. » More
On January 11, the Central African Republic (CAR) government, led by President François Bozizé, and the rebel coalition Séléka signed a new peace deal. The agreement comes after a month of political and military instability that saw rebels advance on the capital Bangui in an attempt to overthrow Bozizé during a military advance. It is expected that the peace deal will result in the naming of new a prime minister and the formation of a government of national unity. According to Centrafrique Presse Info, President Bozizé is expected to respect the decision to appoint Nicolas Tiangaye, [fr] a lawyer and former president of the Central African Human Rights League, as the country’s new prime minister. » More