Considering Conflict in Central African Republic on IndependenceAug 13, 2020 10:54AM ● By Oga Africa
After becoming independent, CAR, formerly called Ubangi-Shari, was ruled by military governments, and finally established civilian rule in 1993, an accomplishment that fell apart after a decade. Every president in the country, besides Ange-Feliz Patasse, rose to power via coup d’etat. The country’s soil is abundant in natural resources such as hydropower, uranium, gold, timber, diamonds and more. This is an underlying motivation to attain power over the land.
In 2003, a military coup led by General Francois Bozize disposed of then president Ange-Feliz Patasse. By 2004, the Central African Republic Bush War broke out between rebel forces, notably the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR,) and the government. From 2007 to 2012, the government and rebels signed peace treaties that aimed to quell the conflicts. This de-escalation did not last long. When General Bozize was elected for a second term in 2011, public opinion saw the elections to be rigged. In 2012, various rebel groups claimed Bozize did not honor the guidelines of the treaty. These groups, who were mostly Muslim, joined together, including the UFDR, rebels from Sudan and Chad, and more. They named themselves ‘Seleka,’ which means alliance in the Sango language. They then took control of the central and northern parts of the country. This sparked the second Civil War and increased the violence, rape, killings and burning of villages happening in CAR.
In January 2013, the government and Seleka participated in peace talk, and formed a joint government including the Seleka rebels. By March of that same year, the collaboration fell apart and the rebels took over the capital, forcing Bozize to leave the country. In response to immeasurable killings, rampage and more, a new rebel group, Anti-balaka, which means ‘anti-machete’ or ‘invincible,’ made up of mostly Christians, rose in 2013 to battle the Seleka militia in the war. To this day, these groups continue fighting, terrorizing civilians, and controlling parts of the country. The Anti-balaka, who target Muslim communities in addition to the Seleka, and hundreds of other guerilla groups have joined in on the fight for power. Guns and ammunition for this ongoing conflict have been supplied by the Sudanese weapon traffickers, the Russian government, and more.
After two interim presidents, in 2014, Faustine-Archange Touadera, an independent candidate, was elected. However, outside of the capital, varying guerilla groups continue to control roughly two thirds of the country, targeting ethnic groups, committing murder, pillaging villages, violating civilians, displacing communities and forcing child soldiers to join them in doing so.
(Peul women in CAR)
The dominant ethnic group in the country are the Baya, followed by the Banda, Mandija, Sara, M-Baka Bantu, Arab-Fulani or Peul and more. The Council of Foreign Relations reports that of these groups, 2.9 million Central Africans are in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 581,362 are internally displaced and thousands have been killed.
Civil unrest, kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of crime are commonplace in CAR, and last week, the US government posed sanctions on one of CAR’s militia leaders, Bi Sidi Souleymane, for heinous acts of violence, including murdering, raping and torturing villages in the country.
So we ask, what does Independence Day mean to CAR in yet another decade of violence? Raise awareness by sharing this article and stimulating conversation.