French Army Arrives in République centrafricaine (RCA).
Women gather on the steps of the National Assembly in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, on Monday, during a protest over violence against women. PACOME PABANDJI/AFP/Getty Images
“There were no dramatic demonstrations of joy, but rather a huge sigh of “relief “ : residents of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), did not hide their satisfaction, Tuesday, Nov. 26 at the sight of the French troops arriving to bring a halt to the activities of rebels who have been terrorising the population. ”
Le Monde (adapted)
“Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, had mentioned the deployment of 6,000 9 000 peacekeepers. But until now, several countries, including the United States and Great Britain , have seemed reluctant to finance a new operation in Africa . The resolution, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter provides for the use of force, and would call “the rapid application of transitional arrangements in the Central African Republic” with the objective of holding of free and fair elections.”
“According to the UN, without ” swift and decisive action ” in the Central African Republic, there is a risk ” that the crisis will spiral out of control”. The “religious and ethnic conflict ” between Christians and Muslims could lead to “widespread atrocities” . The Central African Republic, according to the UN risks becoming “a breeding ground for extremists and armed gangs.“
The operation in CAR “has nothing to do with Mali“, said the Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian. He spoke of an intervention that would be “brief, taking around of six months or less “. He added, “This is a failed state within which there is a grave danger of religious conflict”.
The Independent reports,
“The Central African Republic is in a state of collapse and we cannot allow a country to fall apart like that, with the risk of violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos, ” Mr Le Drian said.
Both sides have accused each other of atrocities since a Muslim rebel alliance overthrew a Christian president in March. There have been reports of massacres, rape and the conscription of child soldiers by the rebel forces.
Over a million people, in a country of 4.4 million, are facing famine. An estimated 400,000 people have been forced from their homes and 68,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council on Monday that the CAR was becoming a “breeding ground for extremists and armed groups” and could descend into a full-scale civil war between Muslim and Christian communities. (1) UN officials have warned of the “potential for another Rwanda”.
Background in l’Humanité.
More on the religious aspect of the fighting and massacres of civilians in the Guardian.
The latest eruption began in March when the unpopular president, François Bozizé, fled by helicopter with five suitcases after being overthrown by a loose coalition of rebels, bandits and guns for hire known as the Seleka, meaning “alliance” in the local language. One of its leaders, Michel Djotodia, declared himself president — the first Muslim to rule this majority Christian nation of 4.6 million people.
What started as a political movement against the corrupt and autocratic Bozizé is now taking on an ominously religious character. Nearly all the Seleka are Muslim, including mercenaries from neighbouring Chad and the notorious Janjaweed from Sudan’s Darfur region. An “us and them” mentality of mutual distrust and paranoia is taking root, with some Christians taking up arms in vigilante militias known as “anti-balaka” — meaning anti-sword or anti-machete — and committing atrocities of their own, giving the Seleka a pretext for yet more aggression. The spiral of violence has become a recruiting sergeant for thousands of child soldiers.
Few people have raised their voices against this intervention.
(1) About 80 percent of the population of the Central African Republic are Christians. It is believed that many of these followers incorporate traditional indigenous elements into their faith practices.