27 Mar 2014

We looked away and the machete men came out

Some kind of nineteenth century re-enactment in the Crimean Peninsular has understandably robbed the media spotlight from many other places.

But to some of these places it can and must return. And foremost among them must surely be the terrifying state of affairs in the Central African Republic.

An African Union (AU) soldier stands guard outside a home at the end of a funeral of two men killed by sectarian violence in the Muslim neighbourhood of Kilometre 5 (PK5) in the capital Bangui
Things have not got better. Arguably they have worsened.

Scarcely a week passes without one major international charity issuing a warning over CAR.

And it is not just the media who have looked away. It is the international community too who made nods and gestures and promises of help and support – then walked on by and did not fulfil those promises.

In the past few days Amnesty International has called on the EU urgently to deploy peacekeepers to the capital Bangui where the Red Cross reports 15 civilian deaths this month and the charity Medecins sans Frontieres has treated almost fifty people for life-threatening injuries.

Around the capital the Christian anti-balaka armed gangs have steadily been gaining ground this year, pushing thousands of Muslims out of the city – indeed, out of the country – altogether.

Yes, the French have around 2,000 troops in the capital and the African Union force of 6,000 is also deployed. Sounds good, but in practice this is a relatively puny deployment for the job at hand.

Ah yes…. The job at hand: how to stop two communities hellbent on doing each other to death.

The UN Secretary-General proposes a 12,000 peacekeeping force, but not until September.

The EU talked about sending in 1,000, but talk is all it was – no sign of them in the country. In Bangui back in December and January I warned readers not to hold their breath over EU deployment. That warning still stands.

What exactly the situation is outside the capital may only be guessed at.

What is certain is that there is more of the same.

Whilst not a genocide, the forced exodus of thousands of Muslims has been sustained for months now, and threatens destabilisation of neighbouring countries like Chad and Sudan – the latter already descending into civil war.

So it is not getting any better. Promises are not being kept.

And the capacity for events in the CAR to spill over into already destabilised neighbours is obvious and pressing.

I write this from Afghanistan having flown in here this morning.  Another place of lost promises and flagging international commitment.

But rest assured Channel 4 News will not allow the CAR to disappear from the radar.

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