The Central African Republic Is Sliding Back Into Civil War
The past couple of weeks have seen the wanton killings of roughly 300 civilians in the southeastern part of the Central African Republic and up to 88,000 people displaced as a result. The media narrative is that these are sectarian clashes between the majority-Muslim Seleka rebel group which toppled the Christian president in 2013 and reactionary majority-Christian so-called anti-Balaka militias, though other reports dispute that and say that it’s more of a Hobbesian free for all motivated chiefly by a lust for power than any religious or reprisal reasons. France and the UN intervened shortly after the 2013 coup led to a total collapse of law and order in the country and actual sectarian killings, but France has since withdrawn from the country since the end of last year and the US and Uganda – which had a limited number of forces in the eastern part of the Central African Republic in order to find fugitive warlord Joseph Kony – also recently announced that they’d be withdrawing too.
Although the country nominally has a government, it’s powerless outside of the capital city of Bangui, and some observers say that the military withdraw of France, Uganda, the US, and even neighboring Chad (which previously intervened in the conflict but pulled out three years ago) created a massive security vacuum which the UN’s 12,000 troops are unable to fill across the sprawling mineral-rich nation. At the same time, Seleka and the anti-Balaka – which were never more than a temporary and oftentimes informal coalition of likeminded fighters – began to fragment into their respective armed gangs as they grew restless over the government’s failed attempts to integrate them into the national framework, and this is thought to have contributed to the outbreak of senseless civilian killings over the last few weeks. The attacks have already created a sense of panic across the country and – whether accurately or misleadingly – made many think that sectarian killings are back, which could contribute to an even larger humanitarian crisis as people flee from their home villages to elsewhere in the country or abroad.
The regional dynamics are also not favorable for the Central African Republic’s stability. The neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo in the south, which was the focal point in the 1990s of what has since been called Africa’s "World War”, is in the midst of an unfolding Hybrid War as armed groups rise up all across the country and state power diminishes. To the east, South Sudan still ceases to function as a state, and the humanitarian crisis there is among the worst in the world. Surrounded by failing states, it’s very possible that the Central African Republic’s slide into civil war will be exacerbated by, and interconnected with, the Congo Crisis and South Sudan’s destabilization, potentially leading to the emergence of a black hole of chaos in this tristate region. Since the UN is powerless to stop any of this and conventional foreign military involvement looks to be off the table for now in all three of these countries, the only thing stopping this dire scenario is the self-restraint of each conflicting party, though that admittedly doesn’t leave much hope.
Andrew Korybko -Political analyst / Moscow
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
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