— The Erimtan Angle —

In dramatic language, CNN’s very own global brand Amapour plugs the photographs of the IRC’s Peter Birro, not forgetting to invoke the spectre of Ruanda . . .

For its part, Human Rights Watch posted this on its website: “Government authorities in [the] Central African Republic and international peacekeepers should allow Muslim residents to seek protection in neighboring countries. Many Muslim residents living in a few heavily guarded areas endure unsustainable, life-threatening conditions and say they want to leave. The majority of the Muslims remaining in the western part of the country are ethnic Peuhl nomads living in small enclaves – such as in Boda, Carnot, and Yaloké – that are heavily guarded by African Union (MISCA) peacekeepers and French (Sangaris) troops. Because of persistent threats against the Peuhl, peacekeepers drastically restrict the residents’ movements”.[1] So, what is happening there in the heart of Africa???

Writing on the digital forum of the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Kujenga Amani (Swahili for “building peace”) and providing some context and historical insight, Dr Angela Meyer says that “[o]n January 10, 2014, former rebel leader Michel Djotodia officially stepped down after ten months as interim president of the Central African Republic (CAR) following his March 2013 putsch against François Bozizé. This development hopefully marks the end of the series of turbulent and violent events that have put the CAR through one of its biggest crises since it gained its independence in 1960. Djotodia was the head of a coalition of rebel movements, which, under the name of Séléka, marched on the CAR’s capital of Bangui in December 2012. Although, initially, the holding of a conference in Libreville in January 2013 held prospects of averting the threat, the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the rebels under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) brought only a temporary and relative calming of the tensions. In February 2013, frustration over some of the agreement’s provisions and reluctance to respect them, as well as a split developing within the Séléka coalition between those taking part in and supporting the new transition government and those who felt left out, led to a new series of attacks by Séléka rebels and, eventually, the seizing of the capital and the toppling of Bozizé. On March 25, Séléka leader Djotodia proclaimed himself the new president of the CAR and in April [2013] was confirmed in this position, as the sole candidate, by the newly established National Transition Council. The country nevertheless remained caught in an escalating spiral of violence. While the largely heterogeneous Séléka coalition disintegrated and splintered under the heavy weight of internal power struggles, a self-defense militia emerged within the country. Mostly formed by Christians openly opposed to the predominantly Muslim ex-Séléka combatants, clashes between these groups drove the country deeper into chaos. In the CAR’s history, tensions between religious groups have so far never played a major role. However, in recent years, the politicization of religion in the wider region has become a critical challenge and fuel for the growing fragmentation of the CAR society. As Djotodia—a Muslim himself—proved unable to control and stabilize the country and violence against the population by ex-Séléka members continued, religion rapidly became a central issue in the conflict. This trend has been particularly strong among the population in and around the capital. Séléka has increasingly been perceived as a foreign, mainly Muslim element, including soldiers and combatants of Sudanese and Chadian origin. On December 5, 2013, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2127, calling for the deployment of a support mission led by the African Union (AU) and backed by French forces, to ensure the implementation of the Libreville Agreement and promote the restoration of security and stability in the country. At an extraordinary summit of heads of ECCAS member states, Djotodia and his prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, finally agreed to resign from their posts, opening the way for yet another transitional phase in the country’s history—led, for the first time, by a woman, Catherine Samba Panza”.[2]

The news agency Agence France-Presse or AFP, a few days ago, reported that a “recent surge in violence in the Central African capital of Bangui was caused by ‘agitators’ trying to ‘manipulate the youth for purely political reasons’, President Catherine Samba Panza said on Sunday [, 1 June 2014]. The leader made the comments after a visit to a local hospital where victims were recovering from a deadly attack on a church earlier in the week that sparked mass protests. A total of 17 people were killed in the attack on Notre-Dame de Fatima church, which the president has previously described as a ‘terrorist act’. Samba Panza said recent improvements in the security situation ‘do not please everybody. They are agitators who underhandedly try to manipulate, to use the youth for purely political reasons’, she said. [Adding that] ‘investigations are underway. As soon as we have proven facts, I will be able to speak in a more precise manner’. Her comments mirrored those of her prime minister, Andre Nzapayeke, who said on Thursday [, 29 May 2014] that recent attacks were part of ‘a planned conspiracy’ by ‘politicians very close to power’, including people close to his own cabinet and the presidential office”.[3]

 

[1] “Central African Republic: Let Muslims Seek Safety” Human Rights Watch (05 June 2014). http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/05/central-african-republic-let-muslims-seek-safety.

[2] Angela Meyer, “The Recent Conflict in the Central African Republic: Which Way Out of the Crisis?” Kujenga Amani (31 Jan 2014). http://forums.ssrc.org/kujenga-amani/2014/01/31/the-recent-conflict-in-the-central-african-republic-which-way-out-of-the-crisis/#.U5BXIpNrP4g.

[3] “Central African president sees political conspiracy in attacks” AFP (01 June 2014). http://news.yahoo.com/central-african-president-sees-political-conspiracy-attacks-173202645.html.

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