|Follow us on:|
“The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago. And we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the CAR today,” Ban Ki-Moon said on Saturday during his visit to the capital Bangui.
On April 7, 1994 and for the next 100 days, more than 800,000 people – mostly ethnic Tutsis – were massacred by club and machete wielding ethnic majority Hutus. The bloodbath was a taint in modern history because global powers failed to act in time despite warnings by peacekeepers there.
In recent days, human rights organisations added their voices to Ban’s urgent pleas – as well as a call for more troops from the French president – for international peacekeepers to be quickly deployed to CAR.
The situation was exacerbated over the weekend when the 850-troop contingent from Chad withdrew from the 6,000-strong African forces in CAR over a dispute regarding the killing of 30 civilians in a market in Bangui.
The Chadian commanders said they were attacked and forced to return fire.
A UN force totaling 12,000 troops was initially to be deployed at the beginning of the year but the Security Council did not reach a mandate and the Ukraine crisis diverted European attentions.
The UNSC is due to vote on the issue next week, but it is unlikely troops will be deployed before the end of the summer.
Ban has warned that the current 5150 African troops and 2,000 French soldiers are overwhelmed by the chaos and lawlessness in CAR.
He is due to speak before CAR’s National Transitional Council late Saturday and also plans to meet with interim President Catherine Samba-Panza before flying to Rwanda to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide there.
Meanwhile, CAR marked a grim anniversary of its own last week – it’s been one year since a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels seized power in the capital Bangui.
In the year since, there has been a transfer of power twice as the country has fallen into ethnic cleansing, possible genocide, and lawlessness.
A day ahead of the anniversary, a grenade attack during a funeral killed 11 people and injured 14. Red Cross officials who attempted to provide assistance and retrieve the bodies were themselves mugged by unidentified groups.
The UN last week said that there are more than 650,000 who fled their homes in recent months, with over 290,000 having fled to neighbouring countries.
In recent days, UN officials said the capital Bangui was nearly purged of Muslims as Christian militia roam the streets in a revenge spree.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay issued a warning last week that hatred between Christians and Muslims in CAR had reached a “terrifying level”.
The current crisis in CAR – a mineral rich nation of 4.6 million people – began in December 2012 when Seleka – a rebel amalgamation of several different factions – began to move toward Bangui in hopes of removing Bozize, a military officer who seized power in 2003 and has been elected president twice since then.
Analysts say that the rebel gains underscore the instability and extreme poverty that has plagued the country since independence from Paris in 1960 despite possessing vast agricultural, water and mineral resources, including uranium, gold and diamonds. The average monthly income is around $60.
In January 2013, a ceasefire was reached and an UN-sponsored peace process led to the formation of a unity government in which the president was allowed to remain in office till 2016, provided top ministerial positions went to members of the Seleka Coalition.
However, on March 23, 2013 the Coalition broke the national unity agreement and seized the capital Bangui. In the fighting, 13 South African peace-keeping soldiers were killed and 27 others wounded during a clash with the rebels. South Africa withdrew its forces.
In December 2013, CAR President Michel Djotodia – a Muslim brought to power by the Seleka Coalition, called on the militia to exercise restraint and lay down their arms after nearly 1,000 people were reported killed in fighting with newly formed Christian militias.
His attempts to calm the situation failed and in January 2014 he fled to nearby Benin.