Huffpost UK Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Ian Lucas Headshot

Crisis in Central African Republic

Posted: Updated:

The brutal images of sectarian violence that have emerged from the Central African Republic since March last year have shocked the world.

The scale of the violence, which has intensified since November, has escalated rapidly. More than 1,000 people have died in the last month alone. A widespread culture of impunity has rendered women particularly vulnerable and sexual violence is being used to terrorise groups within the country. A million people have fled or been displaced from their homes, compounding the already desperate humanitarian crisis.

Amidst the horror, there is also confusion - from those struggling to make sense of a conflict in a country where Christian and Muslim communities have coexisted peacefully in the past and where, now, intense religious division is leading to horrific violence.

Whilst the CAR is oil rich, it is one of the world's least developed countries, and its citizens are amongst the poorest in Africa. The country has a long history of instability leading to social unrest, coups, and of high levels of corruption.

However, the violence which has enveloped large areas of the country in recent months is unprecedented. The inter-religious tensions that are fuelling this conflict are a relatively recent development - mirroring increasing inter-faith clashes elsewhere across the continent.

Indeed the French Ambassador to the UN admitted this week that his country underestimated the deep divisions between the religious communities in the CAR who are now trying "desperately to kill each other".

The CAR has been plagued with violence since the predominantly Muslim alliance of five rebel movements, the Seleka group, seized control of the capital Bangui in March 2013. Christian president François Bozizé was forcibly removed from power, and the rebels then put president Djotodia in power - the first time a Muslim had presided over the majority Christian country.

When Djotodia lost control over the Seleka, the country descended into chaos. Muslim and Christian communities were pitted against each other, accusing each other of initiating the violence.

Last week both president Djotodia and his PM Nicolas Tiangaye resigned, following pressure from both France, the former colonial power, and from African neighbours. Whether this resignation has improved prospects for peace is as yet unclear, and the security and humanitarian situations in the country remain precarious.

It's clear however that an interim prime minister must now be appointed as soon as possible, with fresh elections taking place before the end of the year.

With the backing of the UN Security Council, last month saw the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping Mission (MISCA) working alongside French troops, building on efforts made last year to stem the violence.

This week, the US has added their support to the mission, aiming to protect civilians, and to help restore public order.

These are welcome steps. As is the £10million of UK aid announced to CAR in November, to help UN Agencies and NGOs such as the International Red Cross to alleviate the desperate levels of humanitarian suffering.

However, since then, the situation in CAR has worsened. The situation on the ground is critical, and it is essential that all in the international community, including the UK, remain fully engaged.

As United Nations officials on the ground warn that 20% of the population - that's almost a million people - have now fled their homes, the UK government now need to set out what steps the international community can take to try and help stabilise the situation.

In recent years, the UK has worked with EU partners to build governmental capacity in crisis ridden states such as Somalia and Mali through humanitarian aid and political support. Similarly, we must now stay alert to the potential for conflict unfolding in the CAR to worsen, and so UK ministers must explore what collective steps can now be taken by the international community to address the critical situation on the ground.

Around the Web

Central African Republic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Central African Republic - Central Intelligence Agency

BBC News - Central African Republic profile - Overview

Central African Republic | World news | The Guardian

Central African Republic News - Breaking World ... - Times Topics

Group: Convoy attack kills 3 children, 19 adults in Central African Republic

Violence-hit Central African Republic shortlists eight for president

Last-Ditch Effort Emerges to Restore Order in Central African Republic

Gunmen Attack Muslims Fleeing Central African Republic, Kill 22, 3 kids

Ghost Town Is Mute Witness to Central African Violence