“I cannot help thinking that if the Central African Republic were not a poor country hidden away in the heart of Africa, the terrible events that have taken place and continue to take place would have stimulated a far stronger and more dynamic reaction by the outside world. How many more children have to be decapitated, how many more women and girls will be raped, how many more acts of cannibalism must there be, before we really sit up and pay attention?”
Navi Pillay’s the UN Chief of human rights and she had this to say about the lack of International attention to the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic.
Reports out of Bangui are alarming. Workers have cited cases of cannibalism, gruesome and open rapes and murders and public torture. Many of the pictures are alarming. And the inter-communal hate is at fever pitch. The last time we saw such a level of violence it lead to the Rwanda genocide.
We said we would not let a second one happen, but we are. We are so enthralled by Ukraine we forget that the CAR crisis exists.
And the violence is extraordinary. Legitimate international sources have reported torture, mutilation and dismemberment. In one case children were decapitated in front of their parents and at least four cases of cannibalism have been witnessed. The chronic instability has lead to incredible violence and the fracture of society into near open warfare.
The deaths of Indian soldiers defending refugees a month or so ago is just the tip of the iceberg.
It all started when president Francois Bozize was toppled by a rebel force. The ensuing campaign of rape, murder and looting by mainly Muslim former rebels caused the Christian vigilante group called the “Anti-Balaka” (Anti-Machete). And this caused tit for tat violence and an escalation of atrocity. And since the Christian groups outnumber the Muslims, the campaign has become one of ethnic cleansing. International forces helped stem the mass murders of December and January but troops are a thin red line. The Indian troops who gave their lives to buy time for an evacuation show the scale of the problem. They are outnumbered and as they are peacekeepers… lack the offensive capability and are merely there to defend. A concerted effort would wipe them out and caused the deaths of millions.
We now have terrible dilemma. Either we aid the ethnic cleansing by evacuating Muslims to safer areas or we leave them to get slaughtered. So far around 15,000 Muslims are under international protection and around 4.6 million people are now refugees.
To point out the scale of under-funding? Just 20% of the funding required to deal with the situation has been met. All these people are being cared for at a fifth of the norm.
We have learnt painful lessons from the past at Bosnia, Rwanda, East Timor, Kosovo and Iraq. Yet we choose not to act on this education. And that is the most painful lesson of all.
And where we fail, another response rises. And their backlash will not be measured, it will be terrible and painful and will definitely fracture the CAR into an absolute and brutal civil war since they are not interested in peace.