Since 1960, the Central African Republic has experienced the highest number of military coups in Africa. These coups have left the country devastated by violence.
The leader of the Seleka, Michel Djotodja, who is the current president, has failed to control his numerous troops (25,000), allowing a series of constant looting, rape, kidnapping, murder, destruction of property, leaving the population in constant fear and total insecurity and pushing more than 400,000 to flee their homes. According to the UNHCR, some 60,000 have crossed the borders to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and DRC. Apart from a few leaders in the region who have been supporting him, he has not managed to convince the international community to accept him as the country’s leader. The CAR has a population of only 5 million people, making its borders and the interior difficult to control. As it stands today, anarchy reigns, especially outside the capital city Bangui where the Seleka have total freedom to abuse the population at will. No administration is present, most humanitarian groups fear penetrating the interior due to complete insecurity, and the population is left as victims with no access to medical attention, food, or justice.
Fear of confessional conflict
The Seleka is a minority Muslim-dominated rebel group within a Christian-dominated country. Since their rise to power, there have been constant attacks on churches, and Christians have been raising fears that the conflict is turning confessional. Christians from the interior feel overpowered and suffocated by the Muslim rebel leaders and some have been staging retaliation attacks on the Muslim communities in the North and the Eastern part of the country.
Current efforts to disarm the rebels have been difficult and futile by a small African Union force, MISMA. The rebels are in possession of heavy machinery of war and they use it to cause chaos within the country. The majority of the population has left the villages to seek refuge in the bush, exposing them to more insecurity and various infectious diseases. Very little attention has been given to the ongoing conflict by the international community until recently (October) when France pledged a deployment of UN troops to help the country regain security. The current government of transition is supposed to lead the country for 18 months until a democratic election is organised. The country’s treasury is empty and due to the constant insecurity and anarchy, tax is not properly collected. Schools find it difficult to open, and the already poor state of the hospitals’ infrastructure leaves them without personnel and medicines. Access to justice is completely non-existent and a system of survival of the fittest seems to have taken over.
Lack of good governance
The resources of the country are being controlled by the rebel groups who do not give any account to the central government. Most of them are being smuggled into the neighbouring countries. This illegal practice is only creating more anarchy and discontent among the population, whose voices are unheard; this will lead to another fresh wave of violence sooner or later.
The Seleka is a coalition of different rebel groups who came together with the aim of overthrowing the Bozize government. Since their rise to power, it has become clear that they have no political agenda for the country. The individual members are still faithful and obedient to their respective leaders, rendering the initial idea of the coalition useless. All they have been doing is creating more agony for the already exhausted population through constant human rights abuses. The Seleka does not look ready to give up their arms in order for peace to prevail.
The previous government
The partisans of the overthrown government are to date still very bitter about their defeat by the Seleka and they are being hunted down by the current government. The leader of the previous government has declared that he is set for revenge and will seek power by force, creating further fears of another rebellion. Recently they have claimed responsibility over attacks in the Northern part of the country which left more than a hundred dead.
The international community, the African Union and many international organisations within the country have not managed to access the population for any humanitarian assistance due to the reigning insecurity. Their activities are mostly limited to the capital city which is relatively secure. Most countries, including direct neighbors of the CAR, have distanced themselves from the ongoing chaos in the country, rendering it more difficult to solve. Only a few countries, members of the Economic Community of the Central African states, have shown interest and sent some of their troops to help bring back security within the country. The country is still waiting for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops to Central Africa from the recent UN resolution of the Security Council, which is supposed to assist the country in getting its security back and eventually reach a democratic election.
Religious and local leaders
Their role is paramount in either fuelling or quelling the ongoing chaos in the country. The Muslims, a minority in the country, are currently backed by the Seleka leaders in power, and the Christians, the majority of the population, feel they are the victims in this situation. This tension can easily turn into violent conflict between Christians and Muslims. Most politicians have gone into hiding fearing reprisal from the notorious rebel group in power. Their silence on the ongoing situation leaves the perpetrators free to engage in more abuses.
Currently, the Central African population is at the mercy of the Seleka war lords who submit them to constant looting, murder, rape, destruction of property, oppression, and there are an increasing number of reports of people being forced to convert to Islam. If nothing is done to stop this group, there is a fear that the country will become another Somalia, another sanctuary for more rebel groups or Jihadists. The already fragile region can easily become much more unstable.
As it stands today, the country needs an urgent intervention to help disarm the war lords of Seleka and to bring back security before anything else can take place. The Seleka is in possession of heavy war machines which need to be out of their hands to avoid any further violence. The international community has to keep an eye on the current leaders through sanctions and pressures in order to bring them to order. The deployment of the Blue Berets is more than welcome. All the religious and local leaders should come together and raise their voices to stop the ongoing abuses being inflicted on the civilians. A carefully designed peace-building plan should be established through a national conference after the election to ensure the country does not go back to this vicious circle of violence. Will the Seleka lay down their arms? Will the current government give way and allow a democratic election within the next 18 months?