The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest and politically unstable countries, has long faced the social strife and lingering effects of the region’s genocidal past. But since last year, the country has seen devastating bloodshed within its borders as the Christian “anti-balaka” militias and Muslim Seleka militia fight for political power.
Last March, the Muslim backed Seleka militia overthrew the presidency in a coup and committed horrific human rights abuses. The Christian anti-Balaka militias have since fought to regain political control by attacking and eliminating Muslim residents.
Mutilations, torture and public lynchings have terrified residents of both religious sects, leading to the displacement of roughly 1 million people – almost 25% of the country’s population – according to Al Jazeera. Even the presence of Amnesty International and French and African peacekeepers hasn’t calmed the violence, especially in the Western region. The map shows where incidents have occurred relative to each sect’s strongholds. The anti-balaka haven’t yet moved into the Northeast, where large Muslim populations live.
The escalation of the conflict has prompted outcry from not only human rights watchers, but also the Afghan Taliban and North Africa’s al Qaeda. The Afghan Taliban, which usually doesn’t make statements to conflicts outside its region, condemned “the mercilessly killings” of Muslims by “bloodthirsty militias” as the world sits “idly by.” Shortly after their statement, al Qaeda’s North Africa branch also condemned the ethnic cleansing and blamed France for “fomenting” the conflict.
Right now, international leaders, still haunted by their delayed involvement in Rwanda 20 years ago, weight the promise of ‘never again’ with the realities of shrinking budgets and troops stretched thin by other conflicts, namely Afghanistan. While the U.S. agreed to contribute $40 million and aircraft assistance and the U.K. agreed to give $50, France is the only country so far to agree to sending soldiers. Their 1,600 soldiers will aid the UN Security Council’s proposed 6,000 African troop intervention force.
Still, human rights leaders warn that not enough is being done to help prevent the conflict from escalating to another Rwanda.
“If the post Rwanda and Bosnia ‘never again’ means anything, the U.N. Security Council needs to go all in to halt the spiraling killing in the Central African Republic,” said the United Nations director of Human Rights Watch, Philippe Bolopion. “This is a moment of truth.”