The United Nations has warned that the humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) is growing more fragile despite the recent election of Kouyassoum Douma, a female Christian, to the office of President.
This follows on the forced resignation of President Djotidia, the first Muslim leader in the Christian dominated country. Despite the recent election of a Christian leader, however, Christians are continuing to attack Muslims.
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Central African Republic: Conflict rooted in history of violence
While many African countries have been stabilizing in recent years, after decades of fragility and violence following decolonialization in the 1950’s and 60’s, the Central African Republic has remained one of the continent’s most fragile countries. Add in a weak economy and low HDI scores, and the country is a nothing short of a simmering tinderbox.
The most recent conflict found its roots in the “Bush War” that started in 2004 after Francois Bozize staged a coup and seized power a year before. In 2013 Mr. Bozize fled the country in the face of rebel advances and sought asylum in Benin.
A rebel coalition called Seleka seized power in March of 2013, and was successful in installing a Muslim leader, Djotidia, in power. While Mr. Djotidia tried to disband the militia, most groups refused to disband. Since then, there have been accusations that militia members have raped people and pillaged villages.
Mr. Djotididia was forced out of power earlier this year. With Christians making up 80% of the population, there was no practical way for Djotididia to maintain power. Now many Christian groups are attacking Muslims, claiming that it is retribution for earlier attacks.
Recent election doing little to calm tensions
Some 20% of the population has been displaced during months of violence that has fallen largely along religious lines. 80% of the country is Christian, while 20% adhere to Islam. Christian groups have been hunting down Muslims and attacking or killing them. So far over 600 people have been killed. Given lax reporting standards, the numbers may be significantly higher.
Currently, there are 5,600 peacekeepers on the ground in the Central African Republic. France, the former colonial ruler of the region, has 1,600 troops on the ground. The United Nations is calling for more troops and resources, however, as the crisis continues to worsen. With the Western powers looking to keep budget expenditures under control, and China and other emerging powers unwilling to get involved in such regional conflicts, the UN may find itself hamstrung.