Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News
The end remains out of sight in the mess, and now civil war, that the diamond-rich Central African Republic (CAR) degenerated into since the coup d’état of France-propped Francois Bozize in 2013. Human suffering is common as fighters of different streaks and causes – anti-balaika or Seleka thugs and the armed forces – battle it out and, in the process, turning towns and villages upside down. While the United Nations refugees’ agency describes the living conditions as “dire”, the body’s peace-keeping mission deserves blame for maintaining or worsening the situation.
In months, 42 lives have been lost to TB, malaria and malnutrition in Yaloke, a CAR enclave north of Bangui. More will die as the mess abates, and the world turns a blind eye. The deaths, explained Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Lewis Mudge, in an interview with Sabahul Khair, underscore the humanitarian crisis that the conflict has become. Hundreds have been stuck for months in Yaloke, where adults and kids alike are malnourished, noted the UN. How many more people should suffer or die before the world mobilises humanitarian aid and help end the war?
“In the west – which includes Bangui, the capital – you’ve seen, over the last year, of such an exodus of the Muslim population as the anti-balaka turned on them. This has resulted in most of them leaving but there is a few that are left. There are about 8,000 Muslims in the capital, Bangui, in what is effectively a ghetto,” HRW’s Mudge told Cii.
“There’s one major town in the west, called Bouda, that has about 10,000 Muslims. But then, most worryingly, the rest are scattered about in smaller enclaves where the situation is precarious for two reasons. These enclaves hold just a few hundred people (and are in the midst of) anti-balaka who have surrounded these enclaves but also there’s a humanitarian crisis unfolding in these enclaves,” the HRW researcher said, adding the UN mission on the ground is failing on the civilian protection front. Catherine Samba-Panza’s indecisive administration makes things worse.
The HRW has taken issue with Monusco, the UN’s peace-keeping mission for its failure to protect civilians from the warring bandits. Mudge reminded Cii listeners that Monusco’s primary duty is to protect civilians rather than, for one, keeping them confined. The UN mission, with its “good budget”, is supposedly abdicating its duty at the behest of the Samba-Panza-led government. The HRW researcher reckons Monusco ought to bolster its troop numbers.
“We think these Muslims that are trapped in these enclaves, those who wish to leave should be allowed to leave. The transitional government finds this very contentious. The transitional government does not want Muslims to leave the west because they don’t want to be seen as abetting ethnic or religious cleansing,” Mudge argued. “However, we feel that anyone has the right to move freely as they so choose. And, moreover, I personally can assure you that the individuals – in these enclaves – there lives are in danger. The UN should be facilitating their departure so that these people can live with dignity and security.”
While noting that Muslims bear the brunt of the CAR protracted chaos, he asserted that religion was no factor. This contrasts the narrative in the media. That this is anything but a religious conflict is probably underscored by the fact that the bandits are plundering and openly targeting just about anyone, young and old, indiscriminately.
“It’s important to note that the anti-balaka are now turning on non-Muslims. This highlights the fact that this is not a religious conflict that, I think, major media (portray) it. We see Christians being attacked. We’re seeing people who are not Muslim standing up to the anti-balaka and being shot down,” Mudge said before switching to an area under the supposedly dissolved Seleka. “In the east the Seleka… are now beginning to fracture on their own because, yes, it’s a mostly-Muslim rebel group but… there are a lot of different factors at play.”