The Stream

Is CAR on the brink of outright war?

On Thursday, January 28 at 19:30 GMT:
Tens of thousands of people in the Central African Republic have fled their homes in recent weeks amid assaults on cities and towns by an armed opposition coalition.

An estimated 100,000 people have been freshly displaced since mid-December, when rebel groups loyal to former president Francois Bozize formed the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) to challenge the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadera in the run-up to a December 27 election.

The CPC, which includes Muslim Seleka fighters and their former foes in the Christian and animist Anti-Balaka forces, was angered by the Constitutional Court’s decision to reject Bozize’s election candidacy due to an outstanding international arrest warrant against him for alleged crimes against humanity.

The same court eventually declared Touadera the winner of the election, more than three weeks after a vote in which only 35 percent of registered voters cast a ballot amid a dire security situation. Touadera has called for national reconciliation but the rebels have continued to launch attacks. Two simultaneous offensives against the capital Bangui on January 13 forced terrified residents to seek shelter, before the rebels were repelled by peacekeepers from the UN’s MINUSCA mission.

While the blue helmets are now back in control of former rebel-held towns, the head of MINUSCA is calling for more peacekeepers. Seven peacekeepers in CAR have been killed by opposition armed groups in recent weeks.

The government said on Monday that its forces killed 44 fighters involved in another rebel effort to encircle the capital. But the opposition continues to squeeze supply routes used by non-governmental organisations to deliver essential aid, and the country is now in a state of emergency. Thousands of civilians are now looking to other parts of the country – as well as neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Cameroon – for immediate respite from violence, but face hunger and harsh conditions while sheltering miles from home.

We’ll ask a panel of experts what may happen next, and what’s needed to help solve a worsening humanitarian crisis.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Romain Desclous, @UNHCRWestAfrica
Spokesperson for West and Central Africa, UNHCR

David Otto Endeley, @ottotgs
Analyst, International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professionals

Malcolm Webb, @MalcolmWebb
Journalist, Al Jazeera English