The United Nations (U.N) humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, in a closed door meeting with the Security Council said the continued conflict in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) could soon deteriorate into genocide if the peacekeeping mission in the country is not reinforced. This was the same concern Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission For Rwanda (UNAMIR) raised before the genocide took place in Rwanda in 1994.
Just the way Rwanda’s conflict was pushed aside until it escalated into genocide, C.A.R. is likely to go through the same experience while the world watches.
Fighting in the C.A.R. has gone on for four years between the government, rebels and militias. The fighting also involve Christian and Muslim militia groups. The humanitarian chief in C.A.R. told AP that he saw 2,000 Muslims trapped in a Catholic church after their homes were torched by Christians. He said “every Christian family’s house was left standing” but that the Christian militiamen were “just lying in wait to kill them (the Muslims) if they moved.”
The conflict has not spared the peacekeepers either. About a month ago, two Moroccan soldiers were killed by suspected Christian militias. The peacekeepers who are thought of to be Muslims have been a target. O’Brien said, they “were being described as a legitimate target by the various [Christian] militias who saw them as partial to protecting the Muslim community they were trying to get rid of.”
The conflict is said to have started when a mainly-Muslim rebel coalition, known as Seleka, overthrew François Bozizé, the country’s then-president and a Christian. After the coup, Christian militias known as anti-balaka (“anti-machete”) formed to fight the Seleka.
O’Brien said in an interview with AP that the basis of attacks is now “ethnic or religious.” He said, “We’re looking at things which we haven’t heard about for a long time. There’s a very deep ethnic cleansing approach.”
With underfunding of the UN mission in C.A.R. and allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation made against 80 peacekeepers, finding lasting peace is still an upheaval task. With the withdrawal of French troops last year, C.A.R. might fall into the same situation Rwanda found itself. With focus on South Sudan, Syria and Yemen the world is likely to look away.
The intervention from the African Union could be the best chance the country has. Unlike countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone which fall under West Africa and are part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and therefore experienced military help from the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), C.A.R. is not likely to experience that kind of military intervention.