The Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked African country usually ignored by the non-French media, has recently grabbed the world's attention due to the horrific human rights abuses that are being committed against the population.
It is hard to ignore the unspeakable abuses that so many men, women and children are subjected to and failing to report to the world the horror that is happening in the CAR would be harder to understand.
The conflict in the CAR is somewhat a reminder of the 2010-2011 post-election violence in Côte d'Ivoire although in a different context.
Power by force
In March 2013, Interim President Michel Djotodia (who recently resigned) came to power by force with the support of his rebel group (Seleka) and neighboring countries Chad and Sudan, sweeping southward and removing former President Francois Bozize – who ironically came to power through a coup d'état ten years earlier. Similarly, in March 2010 Côte d'Ivoire's President Alassane Ouattara benefited from the support of his rebel group (Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire), France and the UN forces to launch his uprising to take control of the capital after President Laurent Gbagbo contested the presidential election's results and refused to concede defeat. After being removed from power, Bozize fled to Cameroon while Gbabgo was captured in April 2011 and eventually transferred to the International Criminal Court in November 2011.
Religion, ethnicity and natural resources
Djotodia and Ouattara are Muslims from the North of their respective country while Bozize and Gbagbo are Christians from the South, which fueled the argument of religious conflict in both countries but the formers also belong to an ethnic group that - compared to the ethnic group of the latters - considered itself excluded from the economic power and control of natural resources. The CAR is rich in diamonds, timber, gold, uranium and oil and Côte d'Ivoire's soil is rich in diamonds, uranium, iron, gold, oil and gaz. The conflict in Cote d'Ivoire and the CAR caused a number of innocent victims which both sides were blamed for.
Violations of human rights
This power struggle in both countries has caused thousands of death and over a million of displaced. In the CAR, at least 1,000 people died since the 5 December 2013 attack launched against the Seleka troop in capital Bangui according to Amnesty International and around 700,000 are reportedly displaced in neighboring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Côte d'Ivoire, the post-election violence led to at least 3,000 deaths according to the UN and one million displaced. The crimes reportedly committed in both instances include looting, murder and massacres.
The similarities between the situation in the CAR and Côte d'Ivoire show how sadly history repeats itself.
The CAR situation is very worrisome: half of the CAR population reportedly needs humanitarian assistance. In December 2013, the African Union has deployed its peacekeeping force, the International Mission for Support to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and France has sent its troops with some European countries pledging similar support. The country will likely receive the assistance of the international community to face the aftermath of this conflict.
The road to security and stability in the CAR will without a doubt be a bumpy and long one.
NB: This article was originally posted on Jamii Afrika, http://jamiiafrika9.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/when-history-repeats-itself/
Linda Gueye is a communications consultant. She holds a Master in International Relations and Diplomacy with a specialization in African Studies from Seton Hall University, NJ.