(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a 2-part analysis, written by Martin Forgues, on the current situation in the Central African Republic.)
Last May, I wrote an article on SOFREP about the civil war in Central African Republic (CAR). While I used the word “genocide” to describe the tragedy currently unfolding and to highlight the fact that tens of thousands of civilians Muslims and Christians are being massacred by fanatical religious militias from both faiths, officials remain mum, preferring to refer to a “crisis” – probably because officially recognizing a genocide would conceivably require action. And while a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force is bound to deploy on CAR soil by fall, Muslim Seleka and Christian Anti-Balaka militias will keep trading machete blows and slaughtering civilians under the nose of a powerless government.
Civilians are, after all, the first victims of war. The French Army sent soldiers earlier this year to support government troops and stop the widespread violence, but they were quickly overpowered by the chaos surrounding them. With the UN force still in preparation stage, the current military vacuum and lack of counterweight to the militias is proving deadly to many innocents.
But work is on the way. In a scathing report published this June, the International Federation of Human Rights sends a powerful reminder that the civil war climate in CAR is undoubtedly sowing the seeds of genocide – a scenario all too familiar, reminiscent of 1994’s killing of close to a million Tutsi civilians by machete-wielding Hutus in neighboring Rwanda, and yet another testimony of humanity’s inability to learn from history.
“The nature of the crimes committed in CAR since the end of 2012, and particularly since March 2013 and 5 December 2013, clearly fall into the category of international crimes. Systematic attacks on civilians, the advance planning of certain attacks, the persecution of civilian populations, extrajudicial executions, rape, gang rape, other sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers, the destruction of religious property, the destruction of homes, and other grave violations of human rights, clearly fall within the ambit of war crimes and crimes against humanity under national and international enactments, such as articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC),” reports FIDH, a non-profit NGO founded in 1922. Those basically provide a grocery list of acts considered war crimes and crimes against humanity, most of which are currently being perpetrated by both Muslim Seleka and Christian Anti-Balaka militias.
The report also dared to put names and faces on those atrocities. “The Seleka is a coalition of armed rebel groups mainly from the north of the country. This coalition was expanded to include a large number of Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries who, according to certain sources, made up 80% of the Seleka in March 2013. The group’s chain of command is clearly identified in this report, starting with the former President, Michel Am Nondroko Djotodia, his former Minister of Security, Noureddine Adam, (both of whom have taken refuge in Benin), and General Mahamet Baher, Head of Military Intelligence under the former Seleka regime.”
“The anti-balaka, a self-defence militia composed of traditional hunters, was first established in the 1990s to fight delinquency, being later reconvened to fight the Seleka and fuel a policy of chaos that would allow them to seize power or at least negotiate a front-line political position for their supporters and leaders. FIDH investigations and interviews presented in this report show that the anti-balaka militias are groups mainly set up by the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and eminent politicians close to former president François Bozizé.”
This should facilitate prosecution when the time comes. The Central African Republic ratified the Rome Statute and has been a signatory member of the International Criminal Court.
But in the meantime, no coherent military force appears able to stop the violence. In the upcoming second part of this series, our discussion will be less about legalese and more about “militarese” and the need for a multinational Quick Reaction Force.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Marcus Bleasdale/VII)