Turmoil in the Central African Republic
Rebel forces continue long standing conflicts with each side vying for power
Article: Eman Bare – News Writer
It is estimated that approximately one million people have fled the violence that has sieged the Central African Republic (CAR). Reports state that one in five have fled their homes in CAR.
Earlier this month President Michel Djotodia stepped down, which left many people hopeful for a more peaceful future.
“Finally we are free! We are going to return home at last,” said Carine Gbegbe, in an interview with the CBC. Gbegbe, 28, had been living in a displacement camp on the southern outskirts of the capital.
After the president stepped down, jubilation broke out in the capital city of Bangui. Many had the same optimistic attitude as Gbegbe, with the expectations of peace at long last. Michel Djotodia was a former rebel leader, before seizing power of the country in 2013.
Pressure had been growing for Djotodia to step down as the country tumbled towards lawlessness and violence.
The former president agreed to resign after violence broke out earlier this month that left over 1,000 people dead.
Prior to stepping down Djotodia received heavy criticism from the international community, particularly from the French President Francois Hollande.
The biggest concern currently however, is the potential of a power vacuum in the region.
Violence has been ongoing between rebel groups in the region, and the concern is that one of these groups could potentially form a government.
These rebel groups consist primarily of Christian and Muslim militia’s. The fighting and aggression of these militias has escalated in recent months.
“Having new transitional authorities doesn’t automatically equal the end of the violence in CAR but the resignation of Djotodia was a key claim of the anti-balaka (Christian) fighters and of the population as a whole,” stated Thibaud Lesueur, an analyst with International Crisis Group, during a CBC interview.
Although it is unsure what the next step is for the Central African Republic, critics suggest that the first step was the presidents’ resigning.
The landlocked region has seen little peace since it was declared an independent state in 1960. A former French colony, the country has been subjected to the rule of various tyrant Emperors and Prime Ministers. Although the country is underdeveloped, it has wealth in resources.
So why is the region so impoverished? Asides from violence, poor leadership has impacted the country’s opportunities for development. Since independence, the country has seen eight military coups, and has been home to many dictators.
The most notorious leader was, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who rose to power in the 60s, and crowned himself Emperor. He has been accused of both cannibalism and feeding victims to animals in his personal zoo.
Currently, numerous organizations, such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations, are working frantically to ensure that the pending humanitarian crisis is avoided. In 2013, the majority of humanitarian aid came from the European Union — approximately $102 million in aid.
Additionally, the EU is also determining a peacekeeping operation, with the intention of supporting the French troops that are already on the ground the CAR.
Each country in the European Union is allowed to determine how it supports the peacekeeping mission. Germany for example, will be sending troops to the region.
The peacekeeping mission is expected to last between four to six months. The current interim president, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, has vowed to commit to ending the violence between the two major rebel groups in the country. He both called on refugees to return to their homeland, and ensured that he would do his best to quell the militia groups.
Although the road to peace is a daunting one, the people of the Central African Republic are optimistic with this new change.