Massacres continue in Central African Republic

From the May-June 2014 issue of News & Letters:

World in View

Massacres continue in Central African Republic

by Gerry Emmett

In an unexpected development, the General Assembly of Central African Republic (CAR) elected Catherine Samba-Panza, mayor of Bangui, the capital, as the country’s new president. She is a well-connected lawyer and businesswoman, who also heads a well-connected women’s rights NGO, the Association des Femmes Juristes Centrafricains.

Violence continues between supporters of former presidents Michel Djotodia and Francois Bozize. French troops are present, but not heavily involved in peacekeeping. The French were never in CAR for humanitarian reasons, but to protect investments, something that has become less pressing for them with the closure of their once-profitable Areva uranium mine.

While the developing violence between the Seleka and “anti-balaka” continues, in some cases it is becoming less strictly ethnic and religion-based and more about local rivalries and feuds. So the Seleka, for example, have recruited Christians from Bangui.

Nevertheless, brutal killings and rapes continue, sometimes directed at those who cross newly-drawn religious lines. A Christian woman married to a Muslim man was killed by fellow Christians in Boda, for example, site of a massacre of Christians by the Muslim Seleka. Now thousands of Muslims are surrounded and fearful of further reprisals.

Six hundred thousand remain displaced inside CAR. Camps that are unequipped now will soon be rendered unlivable by the rainy season. Aid agencies have provided little beyond some basic health and sanitation services. The answer won’t be provided by Western charity, in any case. It can only come from the people.

Yaya, the Muslim man whose Christian mother was killed and his wife threatened, said: “To get the revenge, because I’m very angry, it’s not good. It’ll become a cycle, and go on and on.” This isn’t a voice of weakness; it’s the voice of a new world, and the African humanism that will help bring it to birth.

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