A forgotten war.

Civil Wars and terrorism appear to be on the rise. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, civil conflicts such as the one in Syria and numerous African nations are defying a trend of stability that was seen after World War II. These various conflicts are increasing instability in the world. The Global Peace Index of 2014 shows that attacks that are considered terrorist, civil wars, and the numbers of refugees are huge contributors to the deterioration of peace around the globe.

One particular civil war conflict that is going on and has been escalating is the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). When watching the news or reading articles about civil conflicts on mainstream media sources most of the time people will see pages about Syria, Ukraine, and Gaza as of late. The conflict in CAR is often times a bit underrepresented in the media but is extremely devastating and very significant nonetheless.Although this conflict is often overlooked it has worsened to the point where the UN has actually sent in 12,000 Peacekeeper force members to try and lessen the conflict.

This conflict actually began in 2012 when a rebel group called the Seleka formed out of various other rebel groups. In 2013 they overthrew the government of CAR, and now a group of anti-Seleka militants called the anti-balaka. These two have been fighting ever since and thousands of people have been mercilessly massacred by each side, and there doesn’t appear to be any stop in sight any time soon. Even though this conflict officially began in 2012, it has roots that go back much further. It was formerly a French colony, but after decolonization never had a truly good and uncorrupted government. A dictator named François Bozizé caused a lot of resentment with a faulty peace agreement, and then fought rebel groups for years before he eventually was overwhelmed and fled the country.

There is a religious component to this conflict as well, CAR is around 80 percent Christian, 15 percent Muslim, and 5 percent animist. Bozizé was Christian and the Seleka were Muslim. The anti-balaka resistance consists of Christians and Animists, and lashed back with ferocity after the rebellion began slaughtering many innocent Muslim civilians in the process. They struck back with such force that they appear to be responsible for more killing overall, although both sides are battling one another with brutality. The government being extremely weak to provide security, causing the militias to become stronger and thus more deadly. This violence has lead about 1/4th of the CAR population to flee their homes. This isn’t merely a religious conflict though, since many Christians have joined the Seleka militia. This conflict isn’t considered a genocide though, since the massacres aren’t intended to eradicate a specific ethnic group of people, but rather to just strike each opposing group as hard as possible killing as many civilians as possible to gain leverage.

Throughout the years the UN has tried to create peace in this region for decades, with a new deployment adding to the already 6,000 + African Union, French, and EU forces stationed in the nation. Although the UN has a track record of being fairly good at amending civil conflicts with peace missions and truce creations, this particular conflict has only gotten worse. Recently a UN armed patrol force was attacked by rebels, wounding six constables. Prior to this attack was another attack on a convoy that resulted in the first death of a peacekeeper since the UN took over the mission from the African Union. Even with the authorization of 12,000 peacekeeping troops though, the force’s strength was only at 7,500 total. With these recent attacks the UN is looking to take more cautious measures and try to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Even with UN security forces though, this conflict will likely only get worse due to a weak central government that is simply incapable of maintaining law and order. A new president, Catherine Samba-Panza wants to reverse this trend and has a track record of good business and advocacy work before her political endeavors.

Overall though, the infrastructure of the CAR is extremely weak and cannot maintain stability. These factions are warring over different ideals of how they want the state to be, which makes the conflict even trickier. The colonialist history and terrible leadership over the years has built up the instability to a breaking point that will likely take a very long time to amend. With the increase of people fleeing from their homes there is a huge refugee crisis that effects not only CAR but all of its neighboring countries. Without a strong central government to try and contain the violence it cannot possibly become any better. The historical back story to this issue makes it even harder to approach especially for outside actors that may not have a full grasp on what exactly the rebels want.

Even with a fairly large United Nations effort to try and create peace in the Central African Republic, it is still a very often overlooked conflict. Yet even with a limited presence in the media it is a particularly devastating and important conflict for not only the nation but all its surrounding neighbors. This is but one of many destabilizing conflicts occurring in the international community that has decreased overall peace in the world to all time lows since World War II. What approach should be taken for this particular conflict though? Should the UN simply back the new president of the CAR and hope that she can actually create some sort of stability amongst this chaos? Are more troops necessary? Or should the rebels have to fight it out until either they lose all incentive to fight anymore or one side loses altogether.

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3 thoughts on “A forgotten war.

  1. Shocking and sad as to how colonialism and its effects still linger on to this day in age. I believe the UN should back the new president- however, they should aid her by helping to develop peace treaties, armistices, advanced political structures, and etc. Sending in more troops just adds more fuel to the fire in my opinion, and would simply send a signal to more aggression to the numerous rebel groups already using force to try to obtain what they want.

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  2. I really like this post and I think it´s a very good example of what we´ve been talking about in class lately. The problems in CAR should be given more attention and although I don´t know very much about this situation I believe the UN should absolutely back the new President. I believe the most important thing is to create a strong and stable government together with democratic institutions to stabalize the situation. Without institutions there wont be any change or possibility to uphold a stable situation. I don´t think peacekeeping troops necessarily would put more fuel to the conflict as long as they handle it right. Demilitarisation and demobilization are two very important factors in peacemaking and to do that troops will be needed. I do have some problem though about the way UN handles these kinds of intervention because i think they focus too much about short-term solutions and quick fixes. Especially in this case it´s crucial to really look back on history and find a long-term solution to underlying issues and interests. It is a very hard problem to solve for external actors that may not always understand what is really going on.

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    • I definitely agree with Johanna not only that I think this is a great post but the fact that sending more troops would only add fuel to the already intense fire. At least not without having a long-term strategy that includes what conditions must be fulfilled before troops would leave. Many times external actors are not so sure how to effectively intervene in a conflict without creating further damage. I think that as we spoke about in our last few classes, the best support that the UN (and other external actors that are trying to alleviate the situation) can give in such a situation are solutions that would help not only strengthen institutions in CAR but also help improve security that would limit further recruitment by rebels. If such strategies could be achieved, they would have the affect of potentially weakening the rebels to a point that would allow the conflict to deescalate dramatically. This is clearly easier said than done though but its really important that people continue to shed light on this conflict as it is just as important and destabilizing of world peace as those that get major media coverage.

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