Since gaining its independence in 1960, the CAR has experienced dictatorial rule, corruption and political instability. The CAR’s neighbouring countries, Chad, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon have all been embroiled in political drama with the country over the years. France, CAR’s ex-colonial power has also played a dominant role in decisions on the governance of the country. The current wave of instability is primarily driven by three armed groups: the anti-balaka who began as mainly Christian defence groups and two former members of the majority Muslim Seleka rebel alliance, the Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) and the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC).
Every year, The Norwegian Refugee Council releases an overview of global displacement crises that have been neglected. The list is based on lack of political will, lack of media attention and lack of economic support. In this year’s overview, the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) tops the list as the worlds most neglected displacement crisis. Majority of the countries on the list are African. These are: Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. One does hear about the crisis in the CAR on the news occasionally, however it tends to fall from the media and international communities radar.
Due to a deterioration in the security situation in numerous parts of the CAR, the number of those who are internally displaced is estimated to exceed 500,000 by mid-2017. The number of refugees in neighbouring countries is 460,000. 48 % of the population are facing food insecurity, only 35% have access to clean water and less than 27 % have access to basic sanitation. By these figures then, people are suffering and remain vulnerable to poor outcomes such as displacement.
Through the United Nations Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, global states committed to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. If a state fails to fulfil this duty, the international community has the duty to assist states in fulfilling this duty. Populations in the CAR are victims of mass atrocity crimes that have been committed by various armed rebel groups and militias. Due to the nature of the crimes being committed against people in the CAR, the international community does have a responsibility to step in as the government has clearly failed to protect its citizens.
Since October 2013, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), has passed 9 resolutions that reiterate the government’s responsibility to protect its population. In April 2017, a UNSC presidential condemning the violence was issued. In May 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern. On 23rd May 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC), issues a statement issued a statement in which it was noted that the crimes being perpetrated by armed groups in the CAR may fall under the jurisdiction of the court. It is a good sign that key figures in international organisations are condemning the violence in the CAR. This does however have to be backed by action. All talk and no action will lead to even higher displacement numbers.
The UNSC should ensure that the arms embargo imposed on the CAR is respected. Economic support given to the CAR needs to be dependent on the needs of the population and not the international community’s geopolitical interests. External actors have no geopolitical interests in the CAR compared to other armed hotpots in various global region. The civil war in Syria receives a high level of attention from the media and the international community. Although resolution has not been reached the geopolitics of Syria involving several external powers span many decades and have attracted global states to the conflict in the country.
For the international community to assist CAR in attaining peace, there is a strong need for review into the amount of assistance the country is given. Institutions such as the ICC need to continue to hold individuals accountable for crimes perpetrated.
Innocent people continue to be subjected to serious violations to their human rights. With the CAR topping the list of global displacement crises, surely the international community does not need further reminders of how serious the situation in the country is. The international community should not pick and choose what conflicts they get involved in. Then again, in a political landscape where all states try to protect their own interests, a conflict that geopolitically means nothing to global states may not be worth a bother.
Featured image | South Africa – Central African Republic bilateral meeting, 5 Apr 2017| government ZA| flickr
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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