Cen­tral African Repub­lic: killings in the time of tran­si­tion

Peace eludes a na­tion in a rocky po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion

Africa Renewal - - Contents - By An­dré-Michel Es­soun­gou, in Ban­gui

For a few weeks ear­lier this year, no one needed an alarm clock to wake up in Ban­gui. The sound of gun­fire, some­times sus­tained and heavy, was a morn­ing rit­ual in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic’s cap­i­tal city. To most peo­ple here, iden­ti­fy­ing where the shots came from was a sur­vival skill.

Worse still, since early De­cem­ber 2013, Chris­tians, but more so mem­bers of the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity, risk their lives each time they ven­ture out of their now seg­re­gated neigh­bour­hoods—a trou­bling sign of a deep­en­ing re­li­gious di­vide. Killings hap­pen daily. On oc­ca­sion, cheer­ing crowds have par­tic­i­pated in chill­ing acts of lynch­ing, only to re­turn to nor­mal life there­after, as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

On 5 Fe­bru­ary, not far from down­town Ban­gui, sol­diers from the reg­u­lar army lynched a sus­pected mili­tia com­bat­ant. It did not seem to mat­ter to them that jour­nal­ists were film­ing the scene. “It is as if the whole coun­try has lost its senses,” Gen. Babacar Gaye, the UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral’s Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the coun­try, noted at a press con­fer­ence a day after the in­ci­dent. “We have ex­pe­ri­enced in­sta­bil­ity be­fore, but noth­ing like this,” Julien Bela, the edi­tor of Cen­trafrique Matin, a daily, re­marked.

In­deed, since March 2013, vi­o­lence in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR) has reached un­prece­dented lev­els. Killings, acts of loot­ing and other vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights have in­creased as a po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion that started in Jan­uary 2012 has pro­gressed. By Fe­bru­ary 2014, a grow­ing num­ber of an­a­lysts and of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing from the UN, were ex­press­ing se­ri­ous con­cerns over the de­gree of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and had taken to de­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion in chill­ing terms.

Since early 2013, thou­sands of Mus­lims (they rep­re­sent around 15% of CAR’s over 4 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants) have been forced out of the coun­try, in a mass ex­o­dus rem­i­nis­cent of some of hu­man­ity’s dark­est hours. On 20 Fe­bru­ary, UN Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon sub­mit­ted a six-point plan to the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, urg­ing the world to act now. “To­day’s emer­gency is of an­other, more dis­turb­ing mag­ni­tude,” he told the 15-mem­ber body. “It’s a calamity with a strong claim on the con­science of hu­mankind.”

1mn the num­ber of peo­ple who have fled their homes to live in camps since the con­flict in CAR erupted

UNHCR/ B.Nt­wari

A World Food Pro­gramme cargo plane ar­rives at the air­port in Ban­gui where a camp for in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons has been set up.

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