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Inside Story

Is CAR on the verge of genocide?

As aid groups warn of a humanitarian disaster in the Central African Republic, we ask what the world is doing to help.

Last updated: 06 Dec 2013 12:43
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The Central African Republic (CAR) is being shaken by yet more violence, pitting mostly Muslim fighters who have controlled the country since March against Christians who support the ousted president.

The growing sectarian unrest has prompted France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius to warn that CAR is on the 'verge of a genocide'.

The latest outbreak of violence comes as the United Nations Security Council authorised increased military action by African Union and French troops. Their mandate is to protect civilians and restore security and public order.

The crisis is extremely serious … [and] … the most important thing is how do we address it and address it effectively to move the country forward? The country is finally getting some attention by the international stage and we must see that as an open window … to alter the course of events which threaten to engulf the stability of the region.

Simon Handy, a CAR specialist

But is it enough to pull the country back from the brink of anarchy?

CAR has a violent past. It is rich in gold and diamonds, but mired in crisis and violence, in a region scarred by conflict and instability.

The latest crisis stems from a mainly Muslim rebellion by an alliance of fighters known as the Seleka.

They overthrew President Francois Bozize in March and installed their commander, Michel Djotodia, as interim leader. Djotodia has struggled to control the Seleka, who are accused of rampant violence, murder, rape and looting.

Now a group of mainly Christian defence groups called 'anti-balaka', which means anti-machete, are joining the fray. They are said to be a mix of vigilantes and fighters loyal to Bozize. But they too have been blamed for attacks against Muslim civilians, and also for being involved in the latest gun battles.

Aid groups are warning of a humanitarian disaster in CAR.

The UN says the country is facing a crisis that affects the entire population of 4.6 million people. An estimated 400,000 people have fled their homes since the Spring and are living in crowded, dirty camps.

The UN's deputy secretary-general has warned that one in three people are in need of food, protection, healthcare, clean water, sanitation and shelter.

So, what will the world do to help a country widely described as being in a state of 'forgotten crisis'? And can more international troops help bring about the stability needed to pave the way for democratic change?

Joining presenter Stephen Cole for this Inside Story is Xisco Villalonga, a deputy programme manager for Doctors Without Borders; Simon Handy, a former visiting fellow at the European Union Institute for Security Studies and a Central African Republic specialist; Nii Akuetteh, the founder of the Democracy and Conflict Research Institute and a former executive director of Africa Action.

"Basically when we are talking about the humanitarian situation of the population in CAR, regardless [of] whatever resolution of the Security Council or any kind of intervention might happen, what we can describe now as the situation of the population, is a crisis situation .... Since November 2012 the conflict erupted again in the country … but this was just the continuation of a previous situation .... Before this new cycle of violence that is happening, we were already talking, and Doctor Without Borders was witnessing and denouncing for the previous two years at least, [a] situation where the mortality rate of the population [was] very high."

Xisco Villalonga, a deputy programme manager for Doctors Without Borders

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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