Since the March 24, 2013, coup d’état that toppled President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic (CAR), the country has fallen on a downward spiral of lawlessness and chaos largely unnoticed by the international community and the media. Looting, extra-judicial killings, displacement and frequent outbreak of diseases have become the daily norm for this landlocked African country of 4.6 million inhabitants. According to UN agencies, since the coup, 206 000 people have been internally displaced (about 20% of the population), including 100 000 children. Furthermore, food insecurity affects 10% of the population.
Last week in the Northeast part of the country in Bossangoa, clashes between forces loyal to the deposed President François Bozizé and the Seleka coalition of rebels killed more than 100 people. These violent confrontations accompanied with constant attacks on Muslim communities add another level of communal tension in an already unstable and volatile environment. As casualties amount and the country descend into political and civil unrest, neighboring African states in the frontline (Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan) hope the international community will “help” by increasing the 2000 strong peacekeepers of the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) into a UN peacekeeping force of 3 600 peacekeepers. These numbers are a drop in the bucket, given the size of CAR (622 884 sq Km, bigger than France) and the extent of the chaos.
Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia the new “homme fort” (strong man) with the Seleka coalition that brought him to power fails to secure the country. Instead, the Seleka coalition presents itself as a disparate group of bandits, mercenaries and thugs responsible for massive abuses and crimes on innocent civilians. Disarming Seleka and bringing a sense of security has been a tough order for Djotodia, who is becoming more marginalized by neighboring countries, including Chad and Sudan who have supported the Seleka coalition during the coup d’état. After been ridiculed in past sub regional summits in N’djamena and Libreville; Michel Djotodia has recently learned that he will not be welcomed in the United Nations General Assembly this September; an event which he hoped would have given him the legitimacy and stature of head of state.
As the world is painfully learning in Syria, Libya, and Somalia, failed states are magnets to all sorts of ill intentioned groups, who seize ungoverned spaces, surf on legitimate grievances and fears to spread their radical views. These radical groups further establish organized networks and bases to conduct both violent activities and illegal trafficking. Minerals and timber from the dense forest of CAR are certainly up for grab!
As the African Union remains indecisive and countries in the frontline continue to wait for France and the UN Security Council to provide financial and military assistance; the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) is charting its paths in the forest of CAR. Bokom Haram from Nigeria is assessing potential rear bases and other Al Qaeda affiliated groups chased out of Mali are also planning their next safe havens in the country. Not to forget merchants of death who are invested in the lucrative barter trade of minerals versus weapons.
Central African Republic is geographically located at the center of the African continent. It’s not too late for African leaders to remove the dagger that is transpiercing the heart of the continent; and by so doing, give a real meaning to the slogan: “African solutions to African problems.”