How many of you have heard of the Central African Republic (CAR)? My guess is that very few have. It rarely makes the headlines on major news outlets.
Even so, CAR has been experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises since 2013. Here, I want to give a brief overview of what is occurring in this country.
The Central African Republic, as its name would suggest, is located right in the center of Africa.
In 1960, they gained independence from France, but they have been subject to authoritarian regimes ever since.
In 1993, the first elections were held. However, the country remained very unstable.
In 2003, Army General François Bozizé took over the government and was able to stabilize things a little.
In March 2013, Bozizé was overthrown and the country entered intense conflict.
The Major Players
- The Séléka
- The Anti-Balaka
It was the Séléka that overthrew Bozizé in 2013. They are a Muslim-based rebel militia that placed Djotodia, the country’s first Muslim leader, in power. They led many violent and brutal attacks against civilians.
In retaliation, the Anti-Balaka formed–a Christian-based rebel militia that seeks violent revenge on Muslims for the attacks of the Séléka.
It is important to note that the cause of the fighting is not religious. But we’ll get to that a little later.
- Chad and Sudan
- South Africa
As I mentioned, France originally controlled this region until 1960. More recently, France sent troops in to help stabilize the CAR when the Séléka began attacking civilians. This led to Djotodia resigning only 8 months after gaining power.
Chad and Sudan are important because they contribute to destabilization in many ways. Originally, they supported Bozizé and helped him gain power in 2003. When he was being overthrown by the Séléka in 2013, mercenaries from Chad and Sudan also backed this power shift.
South Africa sent troops to help Bozizé remain in power in 2013, but thirteen soldiers died.
All of these countries are interested in CAR, of course, for political and economic reasons.
Now that we understand who is involved, we can start to consider why.
The CAR is rich in a number of natural resources that are quite valuable. Notably, diamonds, timber, uranium, and potential oil and gas deposits fill the country. Each group wants control of these resources.
CAR was suspended from the Kimberly process, but Séléka forces people to mine and sell diamonds anyway, and the Anti-Balaka have taken control of many diamond-rich areas.
The result of such unstable government overrun by violent militias fighting for resources and backed by a number of different countries is staggering.
According to the UNHCR, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes.
About 500,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries.
Malnutrition rates remain alarmingly high.
Mental health services are urgently needed.
They call it “a forgotten crisis,” and because of this humanitarian agencies have a huge lack of funding. Eight agencies have received less than 30% of the funding they need.
What we can do
All this killing, all of these people displaced from their homes, all because of some diamonds, some timber, and some oil.
The first step in helping these situations is to TALK ABOUT IT.
If this crisis was on the mainstream media, we might be able to come up with the necessary support.
If our representatives in government knew that we are serious about providing support to these people, they would act.
Share this blog, tell your friends about it, do your own research, write your representatives, but most of all: Help amplify the voices and needs of a people stuck in a deadly and perpetual conflict.
–R. Chase Dunn