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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.
With a wave of detente spilling over the Middle East, following the surprising US overture to calm relations with Syria and Iran just months after it nearly launched an offensive war in the country over a few fabricated YouTube clops Looks like Africa will be the next geopolitical hotspot. But while France is the figurehead leading the offensive over west Africa, focusing on Mali and the Central African Republic, where they are “peacekeeping” (with the support of US drones), east Africa appears set for a full-blown flare out, with the Sudan area emerging as the dominant zone of instability and future escalation. Which is perhaps why not only a US aircraft, but a UN helicopter, both came under fire in the Sudan over the past 24 hours in what is assured to generate an “appropriate” response by the US.
First, Reuters reports about a U.S. aircraft which was by gunfire in South Sudan:
A U.S. aircraft came under fire on Saturday on a mission to evacuate Americans from spiraling conflict in South Sudan and four U.S. military service members were wounded.
Nearly a week of fighting threatens to drag the world’s newest country into an ethnic civil war just two years after it won independence from Sudan with strong support from successive U.S. administrations.
The U.S. aircraft came under fire while approaching the evacuation site, the military’s Africa Command said in a statement. “The aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission,” it said.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting that pits loyalists of President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, against those of his former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer who was sacked in July and is accused by the government of trying to seize power.
Fighting that spread from the capital, Juba, has now reached vital oilfields and the government said a senior army commander had defected to Machar in the oil-producing Unity State.
And just to assure a condemning social response is generated, and the public mood against the South Sudan is sufficiently negative, the AP just reported that a UN helicopter in the region had been downed also following gunfire by local militant:
Two officials have told The Associated Press that a U.N. helicopter trying to evacuate peacekeepers and civilians was fired on and sustained significant damage on Friday in the same restive South Sudan state where a U.S. helicopter was hit Saturday.
Rob McKee of Warrior Security said the U.N. helicopter was hit by small arms fire and made an emergency landing while trying to evacuate personnel from a base in Yuai in Jonglei state. A second official who insisted on anonymity because the information hasn’t been released said the helicopter was abandoned and remains unable to fly. No injuries were reported.
A U.N. spokesman didn’t answer a phone call or email seeking comment.
U.S. aircraft were fired on Saturday in Bor, the capital of Jonglei. Four U.S. service members were wounded.
Of course, the question is why the US (and, laughably, French) scramble to get involved militarily in Africa now? The answer is easy: as we reported in June 2012, in the rush for Africa China has a multi-year head start in the colonization race. So what short cuts is a self-determined superpower to do to catch up – why find one pretext after another to send a military force and achieve through brute force what China has been able to attain through infrastructure and domestic investing over the past several years.
From June 2012:
“The Beijing Conference”: See How China Quietly Took Over Africa
Back in 1885, to much fanfare, the General Act of the Berlin Conference launched the Scramble for Africa which saw the partition of the continent, formerly a loose aggregation of various tribes, into the countries that currently make up the southern continent, by the dominant superpowers (all of them European) of the day. Subsequently Africa was pillaged, plundered, and in most places, left for dead. The fact that a credit system reliant on petrodollars never managed to take hold only precipitated the “developed world” disappointment with Africa, no matter what various enlightened, humanitarian singer/writer/poet/visionaries claim otherwise. And so the continent languished. Until what we have dubbed as the “Beijing Conference” quietly took place, and to which only Goldman Sachs, which too has been quietly but very aggressively expanding in Africa, was invited. As the map below from Stratfor shows, ever since 2010, when China pledged over $100 billion to develop commercial projects in Africa, the continent has now become de facto Chinese territory. Because where the infrastructure spending has taken place, next follow strategic sovereign investments, and other modernization pathways, until gradually Africa is nothing but an annexed territory for Beijing, full to the brim with critical raw materials, resources and supplies. So while the “developed world” was and continues to deny the fact that it is broke, all the while having exactly zero money to invest in expansion, China is quietly taking over the world. Literally.
More from Stratfor:
In late July, Beijing hosted the 5th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, during which China pledged up to $20 billion to African countries over the next three years. China has proposed or committed about $101 billion to commercial projects in Africa since 2010, some of which are under negotiation while others are currently under way. Together, construction and natural resource deals total approximately $90 billion, or about 90 percent of Chinese commercial activity in Africa since 2010. These figures could be even higher because of an additional $7.5 billion in unspecified commitments to South Africa and Zambia, likely intended for mining projects. Of the remaining $3 billion in Chinese commercial commitments to Africa, about $2.1 billion will be used on local manufacturing projects. While China has proposed $750 million for agriculture and general development aid and about $50 million to support small- and medium-sized business development in addition to the aforementioned projects, it has been criticized for the extractive nature of its relationship with many African countries, as well as the poor quality of some of its construction work. However, since many African countries lack the indigenous engineering capability to construct these large-scale projects or the capital to undertake them, African governments with limited resources welcome Chinese investments enthusiastically. These foreign investment projects are also a boon for Beijing, since China needs African resources to sustain its domestic economy, and the projects in Africa provide a destination for excess Chinese labor.
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.
French President Warns Of Immediate Military Intervention Hours After Reporting Soaring Unemployment | Zero Hedge
While we are sure it is just a coincidence that hours after his nation reports record and soaring unemployment rates, French President Hollande announces a doubling of troops in Central African Republic (CAR) deciding to “intervene immediately” after the UN authorization, adding “this intervention will be quick. It has no vocation to last and I’m sure it will be a success,”
- *FRANCE HAS DUTY TO INTERVENE, HOLLANDE SAYS
- *HOLLANDE SAYS CENTRAL AFRICA MASSACRES CONTINUING
- *HOLLANDE SAYS SITUATION CENTRAL AFRICA `ALARMING, FRIGHTENING’
The US State Department “welcomes France’s decision to reinforce its military presence,” adding that, the US is “appalled by today’s reports of the murder of innocent women and children outside of Bangui.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be the modern-day war without drones, and as IB Times reports, 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.
Hollande… (via DPA),
French President Francois Hollande said Thursday he had decide to intervene “immediately” in the Central African Republic, after the United Nations authorized an intervention by African and French forces.
France would double its current troop deployment of 600 “within a few days, if not a few hours,” Hollande said in an address from the Elysee Palace.
“This intervention will be quick. It has no vocation to last and I’m sure it will be a success,” he said, pledging to regularly brief the nation on its progress.
Hollande emphasized that France would be acting “together with Africans and the support of European partners” and assured that the country has “no other objective than to save human lives.”
From the US State Dept.
The United States remains committed to supporting the international community’s efforts to find a solution that protect civilians, restores security, ensures greater humanitarian access, and puts CAR on a path back to democratic governance.
Drone use raises questions…(Via IB Times),
“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.
But there are some concerns about the U.N. drone program’s transparency and regulatory framework. “Congo is in many ways a laboratory for U.N. peacekeepers with a range of equipment and a range of experiments being used,” said Phil Clark, a political professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, to Deutsche Welle. “But I think there are big questions here. Such as, what is it like for a non-state actor to use drones and this type of equipment, what kind of information will it be gathering, who exactly will have access to that information and what will they do with it and so I think we need a lot more clarity from the U.N. as to exactly how these drones will be used.”
As the Keynesian train rolls on, when all else fails, declare war… all that non-deflatinary ammunition production and waste…