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|The UN chief’s special adviser on genocide prevention has warned of a “high risk of crimes against humanity and of genocide” in the Central African Republic.
Adama Dieng and other UN officials briefed the Security Council on Wednesday on the continuing and unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims in the country.
More than half the country’s 4.6 million people need assistance, according to the UN, and nearly one million have fled their homes after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March coup d’etat that ousted former President Francois Bozize.
Christian self-defence groups known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) have taken up arms against them, and the UN estimates that retaliatory violence has claimed thousands of lives.
The officials spoke of children being beheaded, entire villages burned and a complete breakdown of law and order, and they urged the deployment of more peacekeepers as soon as possible.
“The level of hatred between these communities shocked me,” Dieng said, listing widespread reports of summary executions, mutilation and sexual violence among the “widespread and massive” human rights violations.
Restoring peace will be difficult “without addressing the current culture of impunity,” he added.
Dieng and the other officials spoke after a visit last month as violence spiralled.
Despite the dark outlook for the country, they expressed hope at this week’s election of Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president, and at the $496m in humanitarian assistance newly pledged by international donors.
They also welcomed the approval by European Union foreign ministers this week of a potential joint military force of about 500 troops to assist the roughly 1,600 French troops and about 4,600 African troops trying to restore order.
Samba-Panza pledged after her election to hold talks with armed groups.
“I want to meet with the armed groups and listen to them,” she told reporters. “If they took up arms, then there is a reason for that.”
The statements came as the Red Cross said it had found 11 corpses, most burnt beyond recognition, dumped in the capital Bangui.
Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Central African Red Cross Society, said nine of 11 bodies collected from Bangui’s mostly Muslim northern neighbourhood of PK11 earlier this week had been set alight.
He added that the Red Cross had collected 87 bodies in the past five days across the country.
|Gunfire has been reported on the streets of Bangui in the Central African Republic’s capital after the news that interim President Michel Djotodia, facing international pressure, had agreed to resign after failing to halt inter-religious violence.
The resignations of Djotodia and Nicolas Tiangaye, the prime minister, were announced on Friday in a statement issued at a two-day summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) in neighbouring Chad.
Talks to decide on new leadership will take place in CAR, it said.
Under an agreement brokered by the CEEAC last year, CAR’s transitional assembly (CNT) elected Djotodia to his position as interim president in April to take the former French colony to elections, due at the end of this year.
As news from the summit reached Bangui, thousands of residents took to the streets, dancing, singing and honking horns in celebration.
Cheers erupted at a camp for 100,000 displaced Christian civilians at the city’s French-controlled airport.
There were no signs of the pro-Djotodia fighters who once dominated Bangui, Reuters news agency reported.
Power vacuum feared
Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips, reporting from Bangui on Friday, said the gunfire broke out shortly after the resignation announcement.
“It is not possible to work out who is firing at who at this stage,” he said.
“The international community is going to have to react very quickly as there is no one regionally who can unite CAR.
“The foreign troops are largely welcome but they are not necessarily enough. The trouble in recent weeks and month has not just been in Bangui.”
Despite the celebrations on Friday, there are fears that the resulting power vacuum will lead to greater instability if it is not filled quickly.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said he wished for the new leadership to be announced “as soon as possible”, adding that “the aim is to move forward with elections before the end of the year”.
“We need the National Transitional Council to find a provisional alternative,” he said.
Thousands of people have been killed and one million displaced by cycles of violence since abuses by Djotodia’s mainly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, prompted the creation of Christian self-defence armed groups after he seized power in March.
Chad summit decision
Djotodia’s resignation was announced after members of the CNT were summoned to the Chad summit late on Thursday to take a decision on the country’s future.
“We take note of the resignation. It is up to the CNT to decide what happens now,” Romain Nadal, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.
“France does not interfere in any case with this process.”
With memories of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide stirred by the unrest, France sent hundreds of troops to CAR last month to support African peacekeepers trying to keep the peace.
But the killings have continued, and France has repeatedly voiced its frustration with Djotodia’s government.
France has 1,600 troops in the country, operating under a UN mandate to assist an African force that is due to be bolstered to 6,000 men.
It strengthened its military presence on the streets on Friday.
European Union officials have also proposed this week sending a military force to support the French contingent.
About 10,000 people are seeking shelter at the airport near the capital Bangui. [Reuters]
|UN officials are warning the Security Council that Central African Republic is on the brink of a catastrophe, with half the population made homeless since ethnic warfare broke out.
UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the council on Monday that about 2.2 million people throughout the country need assistance, about half the total population.
About half the people of Bangui have been driven from their homes, a total of about 513,000, he said. An estimated 100,000 people are seeking shelter at a makeshift camp at the airport near the capital.
The Central African Republic has been plunged into chaos as the country’s Christian majority seeks revenge against the Muslim rebels, who seized power in a coup in March. Fighting between Christian and Muslim militias intensified in December.
An attack on Bangui by the Christian militia calling itself the anti-Balaka on December 5 triggered heavy unrest in the capitol, Feltman said.
A report in late December by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported 600 deaths in Bangui in those attacks, and Feltman put the current total at “750 casualties” in the capital.
“The death toll outside Bangui is likely to be substantial,” he said. “Killings in Bangui and the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation,” Feltman said.
The UN Children’s Fund warned at the end of December, that children are being recruited into the militias, and verified the killings of at least 16 children since December 5, two of whom were beheaded.
In December the Security Council authorised a multinational African peacekeeping force, which is expected to increase its troop strength from about 2,500 to 3,500, to keep a lid on the violence. France sent in about 1,600 troops on December 9 to back them up.
US Gets Involved In Another Foreign Conflict, Will Support French Troops In Central African Republic | Zero Hedge
One of the underreported stories from last week, noted here previously, was that quietly, on the day in which French unemployment soared to a new 16 year high, French president Hollande did what every true Keynesian in his position would do and dispatched troops to the Central African Republic due to a “duty to intervene” and stop the “alarming, frightening massacres” taking place there. There were no YouTube clips available to justify said massacres yet: we assume they are being produced currently. A few days later the fighting has begun with Reuters reporting that French troops fought gunmen in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, on Monday as they searched for weapons in an operation to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters responsible for hundreds of killings since last week. Shooting erupted near the airport in the morning after gunmen refused to hand over their weapons, and French forces later came under attack by former rebels in the city centre. France said it was prepared to use force if fighters rejected calls to disarm or return to barracks. Paris boosted its military presence to 1,600 troops at the weekend as waves of religious violence swept its former colony.
That’s not news. The news is that the US is once again getting involved in yet another foreign conflict. Also from Reuters:
- PENTAGON CONSIDERING REQUESTS FOR U.S. MILITARY SUPPORT TO FRENCH AND AFRICAN UNION FORCES IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – U.S. OFFICIAL
- U.S. MILITARY LIKELY TO PROVIDE SOME LOGISTICAL SUPPORT -OFFICIAL
Some additional detail from the WSJ:
The U.S. will airlift African Union forces to the Central African Republic as part of an effort to aid French troops who are in the country to put down rising violence, defense officials said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authorized the deployment of the U.S. transport planes and pilots Sunday night, responding to a request for assistance from France. The planes will be used to carry troops from Burundi to the Central African Republic, where France has deployed 1,600 troops to try to quell rising violence.
Fighting has increased in the Central African Republic since March when a rebel group seized power. The rebel leader, Michel Djotodia, named himself president.
Turmoil has escalated in recent days, claiming 400 lives and prompting the French intervention. On Monday, French soldiers began disarming fighters in the Central African Republic.
And yet something is different about the C.A.R. – drones. From IBTimes:
Drones were deployed over the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday, marking the first time the United Nations has used unmanned surveillance aircraft in its peacekeeping efforts. A fleet of five unarmed drones will help U.N. troops monitor the vast Central African country of 66 million people, which has been plagued by violent militias for decades.
“Such high-technology systems allow a better knowledge of what is happening on the ground, which allows a force to better do its job,” said Hervé Ladsous, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, according to the U.N. News Agency.
The new drone program marks another rare initiative for the U.N. It was originally approved by the Security Council in January, due in large part to the conflict in Goma. M23 surrendered last month, but ongoing peace talks in Uganda between the rebels and the Congolese government have reached an impasse over the wording of the final agreement.
Of course, someone must have benefited from the drone “surge.” Indeed, someone did.
The drones for the Congo fleet were purchased from the electronics firm Selex ES, a unit of the Italian industrial and defense company Finmeccanica SpA (BIT:FNC). Deployment was originally planned for August, but a complicated procurement process delayed the launch until this week. If the drones prove effective, the U.N. may consider launching similar initiatives in other countries where peacekeeping operations are under way.
In other words, look for the C.A.R./Congo region to get drastically “destabilized” in the coming weeks, especially with both French and the US forced on the ground, and with hundreds of drones in the air repeating the bang up “peace intervention” job most recently achieved in Afghanistan. Why? Simple – because China has now been actively expanding its sphere of influence in Africa as we have been reporting over the past two years. Indeed as the map below which we posted first over a year ago shows, the Central African Republic is the only place that China does not have a major documented presence yet.
So the US (and the west) do the only thing they can: find a pretext to land a military force in order to stake a claim on what they believe are their critical strategic interests before Chinese moneyed-interests decide to do the same.