Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Violence in Central African Republic

On Monday Secretary Hagel ordered US AFRICOM to transport Burundian troops into the Central African Republic (CAR) so they could provide support to the French and African troops already stationed in the country.  Nine months ago Muslim rebels overthrew the Christian government of CAR.  Since then, there has been an escalation in violence between Muslim rebel groups (who have ties to a group called Seleka) and Christian anti-Balaka militia.  Last week over 400 Christians and Muslims were killed in only 2 days of violence (many people have been hacked to death with machetes).  Over the past nine months, at least 10% of the population has been displaced and the country has been plagued by rape, torture, kidnapping, and looting.  President Obama encouraged the people of CAR by telling them they must remain calm and choose the path that does not include violence and loss of life.    

Violence is Everywhere

On December 5th the UN Security Council voted in favor of allowing France to operate under Chapter 7 powers to “directly engage militia to protect civilians against the threat of what the U.N. fears could become genocide in the CAR.”  The US decision to provide assistance came after Secretary Hagel spoke with French Minister of Defense Yves Le Drian.  Pentagon Spokesman Carl Woog stated, "The United States isjoining the international community in this effort because of our belief thatimmediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rightscatastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest inpeace and security in the region.” On Tuesday the Obama Administration asked the State Department to spend up to $60 million for defense supplies to assistthe African Union-led international support mission in the Central AfricanRepublic.” 

French Soldier
President Michel Djotodia

The current Muslim President of CAR, Michel Djotodia, asked the Muslim rebel fighters to “remain in their barracks” so that French forces and African troops could secure the capital, Bangui.  However, President Djotodia acknowledged he had little control over the Seleka rebel group, which now see themselves as the national army.  President Djotodia is obviously refusing to take responsibility for the rebel forces that brought him into power by stating, "I don't think there's a genocide,there's not even a religious war, all of this is made up, it's to manipulate,to manipulate the opinion of the international community."   
My previous post discussed how the US failed to intervene in Rwanda because the military did not believe that humanitarian missions affected US national security and that they did not think they could fight more than one war at a time.  This time, however, it appears that the US recognizes the violence taking place in CAR and how it can impact security interests.  US support will back the UN mandate of assisting the African Union in stopping the violence between Seleka Muslims and Christians.  In six months a UN force is expected to take over the peacekeeping operation.  As of right now, the State Department says the US is not planning on committing any troops to the country, like they did in Mali earlier this year.  If the US commits resources now, hopefully they will not have to make the decision to commit troops later.   
France is concerned that if stability is not brought to CAR then it could serve as a breeding ground for Islamist terrorist groups.  The US is probably thinking along the same lines.  Also, the support being provided to the African Union is increasing their legitimacy and strength.  If the African Union is successful in CAR then that will also boost US AFRICOM as they promote US national security objectives in the region.  The bombing of US Embassies in the 1990s as well as the attack in Benghazi has highlighted the threat of terrorism to US interests in Africa.  The US has definitely learned the lesson that threats to US security can come from anywhere in the world and that they cannot turn a blind eye to humanitarian crises.      
Another reason the US is investing support in CAR is because the country is known to be a hideout for Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.  US Special Forces have been in pursuit of Kony and the violence in CAR could destabilize the region as well as complicate the Kony mission.  Back in November CAR announced that they were holding talks with Kony to persuade him to surrender.  If these talks were actual reality but CAR continues to plunge into greater violence, the possibilities of Kony surrendering will decrease.    

Joseph Kony

I do not think that humanitarian aid will be able to stop the violence and human rights abuses taking place in CAR.  The international community does not believe so either, otherwise they would not be sending in military forces.  At this point, world leaders are just calling for an end to all of the violence.  I think the US is acting as a responsible world power by providing logistical support to forces in CAR.  It will be interesting to see how this situation will play out and how involved the US will become before this crisis comes to an end.     

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