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Old 11-29-2013   #1
davidbfpo
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Default CAR Central African Republic: Fragile, failed and forlorn

The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) for those without weapons has steadily worsened, with some calling it genocide, others it's a disaster etc:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25095471

Somehow I doubt that our mainly US readership will be aware, let alone concerned. CAR is after all in the heart of 'The Dark Continent', was a French colony and Africa - via its states - needs to look after its own. In my limited reading I note the absence of the R2P advocates.

Sadly I expect the situation in CAR will move along steadily, with the likely exception of the capital Bangui, where a small, now reinforced French presence (410 now, rising to 750) may act as a restraint. It is unclear what effect the regional African intervention presence has; it is called FOMAC (2200 strong, EU-funded and present since 2008), it may become an AU if not UN mission.

Pre-crisis background, note the CAR has a long history post-independence of tyranny:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13150040

The last two reports, the South African backgrounder is exceptionally useful:http://gga.org/stories/editions/aif-...penNetworksCRM and Al-Jazeera is good all-rounder:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/fea...L49Plc.twitter
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Old 11-29-2013   #2
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Because the violence is still predominantly criminal and not political in nature I think this will not attract attention for intervention.
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Old 11-29-2013   #3
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davidbfpo,

Quote:
The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) for those without weapons has steadily worsened, with some calling it genocide, others it's a disaster etc:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25095471

Somehow I doubt that our mainly US readership will be aware, let alone concerned. CAR is after all in the heart of 'The Dark Continent', was a French colony and Africa - via its states - needs to look after its own. In my limited reading I note the absence of the R2P advocates.

Sadly I expect the situation in CAR will move along steadily, with the likely exception of the capital Bangui, where a small, now reinforced French presence (410 now, rising to 750) may act as a restraint. It is unclear what effect the regional African intervention presence has; it is called FOMAC (2200 strong, EU-funded and present since 2008), it may become an AU if not UN mission.

Pre-crisis background, note the CAR has a long history post-independence of tyranny:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13150040

The last two reports, the South African backgrounder is exceptionally useful:http://gga.org/stories/editions/aif-...penNetworksCRM and Al-Jazeera is good all-rounder:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/fea...L49Plc.twitter
CAR isn't "far" - there's just Northern Cameroon between it and Northern Nigeria. You find the same or similar ethnic groups in those places & colonial boundaries don't mean much.

I keep insisting that US shouldn't be fighting terrorism in Africa, it should seek to understand state failure - that is what's going on hear.

And yes, a Western journalist told me that he spoke to a Nigerian (from Kaduna in the North), fighting with the Seleka rebels.

I hear Boko Haram is already setting up shop there - & if they do, nothing can stop them.
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Old 11-29-2013   #4
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Default Two Questions:

1. Should "anyone" be doing "something" about the CAR; and, if so,

2. Who is that "anyone" who should be doing "something"; and what is that "something" ?

That country is at least known to me. My aunt, a missionary, served pre-WWII and post-WWII "tours" in the CAR (when it was the Ubangi-Chari area of French Equatorial Africa) at Fort Crampel (now Kaga Bandoro in the Gribingui prefecture), roughly 300 km NNE of Bangui:



Another important question to me is why the CAR (Wiki) has had "a long history post-independence of tyranny" ? Integral to that question is what was its pre-colonial history of governance - and of exploitation by its northern and eastern neighbors (mostly Islamic), especially with respect to the slave trade ? If the area has had a centuries-old tradition of rule by "strong men", "Western democratic" interveners will have a very rough row to hoe (IMO).

As KJ has reminded us many times: look to the ethnicities and religions. So, from the Wiki:

Quote:
The nation is divided into over 80 ethnic groups, each having its own language. ... Fifty percent of the population of CAR are Christians (Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%), while 35% of the population maintain indigenous beliefs. Islam is practiced by 15% of the country's population.
From what little pre-colonial history I found, Ubangi-Chari was dominated by the adjacent Islamic states to its north and east. The seeds for an ethno-religious conflict are certainly there.

Finally, KJ has also noted the relationship of Boko Haram to the former Kanem, Bornu and Kanem-Bornu empires:



This map shows the farthest extent of the medieval Kanem-Bornu state.

Thus, Boko Haram has its "modern" Islamist aspect; but also a "nationalistic" aspect (based on the medieval empires) and an ethnic aspect (the Kanuri people), as well. I'm reminded of the Pashtuns of Astan and Pstan.

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Last edited by jmm99; 11-29-2013 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 11-29-2013   #5
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JMM99 asked:
Quote:
1. Should "anyone" be doing "something" about the CAR; and, if so,

2. Who is that "anyone" who should be doing "something"; and what is that "something" ?
Yes, the "anyone" should be African only, maybe with non-African financial, logistic and other support. If Africa thinks it is a problem for them, a moot question, there are some who have the means.

The "something" is to restrain the 'men of violence' who currently are on a looting plus spree. The first step in 'peacemaking' and some form of settlement, even if that means one day partition - South Sudan took a long time to get independence.

Easy from a faraway armchair.
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Old 12-01-2013   #6
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Davidbfpo,

The more important question should be - "is the established post-colonial order, which the Central African Republic represents sustainable, if not, then why not allow the natural order to prevail"?

Read me, I've kept on insisting that most African states are not nations but ex-colonial administrative units. There's no point beating around the bush or wasting time.

What if a similar situation occurs in a really big state like Nigeria - who will intervene?
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Old 12-01-2013   #7
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Default Fair enough; so then

1. What is the "natural order" in the CAR, a small nation of ~5 million people with ~90 ethnicities ?

2. What is the "natural order" in Nigeria, a large nation of ~180 million people with ~250-500 ethnicities ?

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Old 12-01-2013   #8
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Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
Davidbfpo,

The more important question should be - "is the established post-colonial order, which the Central African Republic represents sustainable, if not, then why not allow the natural order to prevail"?

Read me, I've kept on insisting that most African states are not nations but ex-colonial administrative units. There's no point beating around the bush or wasting time.
I agree that Africa is burdened with 'ex-colonial administrative units', but am unsure if anyone knows what the 'natural order' is. Surely that 'order' will take time to evolve, until that presumably happy state is achieved, what should those outside CAR do? My focus is on the safety of the unarmed civilians caught up in the situation today.

I'd rather leave alone Nigeria's future here, but do recall some of scenes from your own civil war long ago. The people of CAR have not had a happy, let alone natural order for a long time - all from a comfortable armchair far away.
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Old 12-02-2013   #9
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Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
I agree that Africa is burdened with 'ex-colonial administrative units', but am unsure if anyone knows what the 'natural order' is. Surely that 'order' will take time to evolve, until that presumably happy state is achieved, what should those outside CAR do? My focus is on the safety of the unarmed civilians caught up in the situation today.

I'd rather leave alone Nigeria's future here, but do recall some of scenes from your own civil war long ago. The people of CAR have not had a happy, let alone natural order for a long time - all from a comfortable armchair far away.
How can it evolve if outsiders intervene to maintain the status quo?
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Old 12-02-2013   #10
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Default Evolving intervention maintenance?

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How can it evolve if outsiders intervene to maintain the status quo?

Bill,

Touche!

As I said my focus is on the safety of the unarmed civilians caught up in the situation today. Intervention in my day-dreaming would hardly maintain the status quo; rather create - hopefully - a period of less violence, even calm. Then perhaps new relationships, even borders might be reached. From my early reading (cited Post 1) it appeared that CAR already had communal differences, just that the CAR state didn't see them as borders.

All maybe hopelessly optimistic, too many maybe's.
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Old 12-02-2013   #11
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Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
I keep insisting that US shouldn't be fighting terrorism in Africa, it should seek to understand state failure - that is what's going on hear.

...

I hear Boko Haram is already setting up shop there - & if they do, nothing can stop them.
Interesting. Assuming you are correct, the question should be "what does an organization like Boko Haram offer the population that other political structures do not?"
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Old 12-02-2013   #12
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TheCurmudgeon,

Quote:
Interesting. Assuming you are correct, the question should be "what does an organization like Boko Haram offer the population that other political structures do not?"
There's very little government presence outside Africa's capital cities (or regional administrative centers), so it is extremely easy for Boko Haram to establish better governance than a disturbingly large number of African states.

In North East Nigeria the local government system has broken down, literacy rates are as low as 20% - government basically does not exist in large swathes of territory. That's why Boko Haram can be firmly entrenched.

Central African Republic is much worse governed than Nigeria - at least we can agree on that? So I don't see how an organisation, Boko Haram, that has the resources and capacity to challenge the Nigerian state, will have problems plying its trade in CAR.
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Old 12-05-2013   #13
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Interesting. Assuming you are correct, the question should be "what does an organization like Boko Haram offer the population that other political structures do not?"
I think what the population wants is beside the point. The population is very poor and not organized. Boko Haram is organized and a small, armed organized group always can exercise great power over a very large groups of disorganized people whether they like it or not.

We seem to forget this too often I think. Tyrants are very capable of ruling over populations that don't like them much.
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Old 12-05-2013   #14
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King Jaja:

News reports today say fighting has broken out in Bangui. Reuters reports that some of this fighting is assuming a Christian vs. Muslim character. You have said that if the Muslims push to hard against the Christians in Africa, things could get very, very bad.

Could you comment on this?
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Old 12-05-2013   #15
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Default Backgrounder

HRW Report, “I Can Still Smell the Dead” - The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic (Sep 2013) (89 pp, maps & photos):

Quote:
On December 10, 2012, an alliance of three major rebel groups known as the Seleka coalition began a campaign to overthrow the government of President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic (CAR). On March 24, 2013, Seleka rebels took control of Bangui, CAR’s capital, and also seized control of 15 of the country’s 16 provinces. Michel Djotodia, one of the rebel groups’ leaders, suspended the constitution, and installed himself as interim president—a role to which he was subsequently elected by a transitional government. Elections are to be held after 18 months.

The Seleka (“alliance” in Sango, the main national language) said they aimed to liberate the country and bring peace and security to the people. But for most Central Africans, 2013 has been a dark year, marked by rising violence and vicious Seleka attacks against civilians in Bangui and the provinces. With no checks on their power, the Seleka rule arbitrarily and with complete impunity, with the government failing to follow through on its public commitment to bring to justice those responsible for recent abuses.

Seleka forces have destroyed numerous rural villages, looted country-wide, and raped women and girls. In one attack in Bangui on March 25, Seleka fighters raped two sisters, aged 33 and 23, in their home. The younger sister, who was eight-months pregnant, lost her baby the next day. Rape survivors lack access to adequate health care due to insecurity and lack of health services. Civilians who have been abused have nowhere to turn: the civilian administrative state in CAR has collapsed. In most provinces there are no police or courts. Many health clinics across the country do not function, and in at least one town a hospital has been occupied by the Seleka; most schools are closed.
...
As the Seleka moved down to Bangui from the northeast, they captured major towns along the way. In these towns, the Seleka immediately began to loot the homes of the civilian population; those who tried to resist were threatened, injured, or killed.

Human Rights Watch documented attacks on villages by Seleka forces and their allies in northern CAR betweenFebruary and June 2013. This research focused on a broad triangle of territory within the main roads linking Kaga Bandoro, Batangafo, and Bossangoa.

Evidence indicates that Seleka fighters forced villagers out of their homes in order to loot them. Some villagers reported that the attacks were designed to create space for members of the Mbarara community—nomadic pastoralists who move their cattle between Chad and the Central African Republic and have recently been allied with the Seleka.

Human Rights Watch recorded more than 1,000 homes destroyed in at least 34 villages along these roads. Schools and churches were also looted and burned. The Seleka killed scores of civilians while they were trying to flee and have prompted whole communities to flee into the bush—including 113 families from Maorka.
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Old 12-06-2013   #16
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Bill,

Touche!

As I said my focus is on the safety of the unarmed civilians caught up in the situation today. Intervention in my day-dreaming would hardly maintain the status quo; rather create - hopefully - a period of less violence, even calm. Then perhaps new relationships, even borders might be reached. From my early reading (cited Post 1) it appeared that CAR already had communal differences, just that the CAR state didn't see them as borders.

All maybe hopelessly optimistic, too many maybe's.
David,

I didn't consider my comment touche or emotional at all, but it was a simple statement with deep meaning. How do we expect Africa to evolve in a way that will eventually result in an acceptable norm for them that is relatively peaceful if we keep intervening to maintain the status quo.

I suspect most of us the West have concerns with unarmed civilians getting killed in any conflict, we definitely killed quite a few ourselves in our recent conflicts and tens of thousands of them during WWII, so is that really a criteria for intervention? Sounds like R2P and the CNN effect all over again, and while not discounting it, since this is principally a conflict between peoples not states, does being unarmed mean you're not a target (to the belligerents)?

I'm not taking a stand one way or the other, I only have a limited familiarity with CAR, but I'm exploring our assumptions for intervention. Short term we may save lives, longer term I'm not so sure.
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Old 12-07-2013   #17
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I am not advocating the UK intervenes in CAR, although it appears this week we offered the French airlift support.

I too am aware that media access and reporting of conflict is neither impartial or complete. Somehow I expect there is another bloody conflict under-way in Africa which has not been reported, let gained "front page" attention here.

For example I cannot recall much reporting let alone footage of the Sudanese civil war, then along came Darfur which had some and South Sudan almost appeared without attention - although there was some.

Try this C4 report, by an experienced reporter:http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thoms...-republic/6683

Incidentally FOMAC troops have been active, with one Congolese soldier killed this week; via BBC World Service reporter Thomas Fessey, on Twitter as @bbcfessey.
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Old 12-08-2013   #18
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David, the report was insightful but seemed to dismiss the fact that the Seleka militia is mostly composed of Muslims, which reinforces the characterization that this conflict may have, or is starting to take on a religious conflict character. At least that is what some of the Christians in CAR believe, and perception is reality when it comes making decision on how to respond.

From Christian news sources:

The Vatican

http://www.news.va/en/news/africacen...a-consists-lar

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - "Seleka consists largely of jihadists, our situation is similar to that of Mali," says the Bishop of Bangassou

Quote:
The rebels’ goal is to overthrow the current government and impose a regime of Islamic imprint. These are the jihadists, probably paid for by someone from the outside," said the Bishop. "The situation is very similar to that of Mali, but the Central African Republic does not seem to alarm the world in the same way."In the Country there are troops of the Central Africa Countries , plus a South African military contingent to protect the "sensitive areas" of the capital. "80-90% of the Country is in the hands of Seleka, 5-6 guerrilla groups gathered under this symbol. They consist largely of jihadists who speak Arabic and who after conquering other areas of the Country are also taking the east, where they have killed and raped civilians, looted homes and Christian missions, but not mosques. In the conquered cities they have destroyed the municipal registers and courts, an action aimed at destroying the historical memory of the local population," said Mgr. Aguirre Munos.
The Presbyterian Church

http://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/12/2/...al-african-re/

Religious conflict rips through Central African Republic

Quote:
Seleka was formed in December 2012, when Islamists and other rebel groups from Chad and Sudan joined forces. The militants had crossed into the country, attacking government installations and destroying churches and church missions, businesses and homes, Christian agencies report.
Quote:
Church leaders say the violence is surging, while U.N. officials say the situation is slowly degenerating into a Christian-Muslim conflict as the rebels escalate attacks and Christian militia retaliate. Some have voiced fears of a potential genocide.

“We did not have tensions until the arrival of Seleka,” said the Rev. Andre Golike, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Central African Republic
I see no indication at this time any of this is associated with AQ affiliates but it appears to be more of an attempt to mobilize segments of the population by using religion. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
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Old 12-08-2013   #19
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I see no indication at this time any of this is associated with AQ affiliates but it appears to be more of an attempt to mobilize segments of the population by using religion. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Does it matter in the long run if Seleka is associated with AQ right now, or if they ever associate with AQ itself? AQ, or a variation thereof, is going to go to them. We are getting to the point of Christians vs. Muslims in Nigeria, in Kenya, in Sudan (for decades) and now in the CAR. This will be more than interesting, this may turn out lethal for millions of people. I think it is far more than trying to take advantage of a local situation.

In fact, Muslim persecution of Christians it seems to me is growing everywhere in some Muslim countries, lethal persecution. This problem isn't going to go away and is an ongoing human tragedy that we not only say little about, we don't even seem to see it.
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Old 12-08-2013   #20
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Does it matter in the long run if Seleka is associated with AQ right now, or if they ever associate with AQ itself? AQ, or a variation thereof, is going to go to them. We are getting to the point of Christians vs. Muslims in Nigeria, in Kenya, in Sudan (for decades) and now in the CAR. This will be more than interesting, this may turn out lethal for millions of people. I think it is far more than trying to take advantage of a local situation.

In fact, Muslim persecution of Christians it seems to me is growing everywhere in some Muslim countries, lethal persecution. This problem isn't going to go away and is an ongoing human tragedy that we not only say little about, we don't even seem to see it.
Carl I agree with you, I put the caveats in my response to damper the automatic responses from self-proclaimed "more rational" who dismiss the character the conflict we're in because it doesn't conform to their view of the world.
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