28 Apr 2014

Central African Republic: peacekeeping or ethnic cleansing?

A Muslim woman prepares to be evacuated near the PK12 neighbourhood in Bangui

When a journo writes the word “unprecedented” you can generally bet the farm the one thing it is not is without a precedent.

But a situation in which international peacekeepers create a vital cog in the machinery of ethnic cleansing and organised communal violence?

This can seldom have happened in a capital city. This can seldom have been a key factor in creating an ethnically pure capital at the point of a gun or the blade of a machete.

But that is how it now is in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Here, in the past few days African and French “peacekeepers” have sent the last 1,300 or so Muslims from this now Christian-only capital city.

Their homes are gone. Their businesses wrecked and looted like their homes. And now life itself depends upon heavily-armed escort north to Chad, or perhaps Cameroon – anywhere but the CAR.

As soon as the Muslims had left, under the eye of the “peacekeepers” the mobs of looters moved in upon the main mosque of PK 12 – never a lavish building in any sense even before all this.

A man scrawled “community centre” on the walls as everything of value that could be taken was taken.

Again, all under the gaze of the “peacekeepers”. What else can they do? They remain caught on the dilemma that they can just about protect Muslims in overcrowded ghettoes like PK 12 prior to shifting them to safety abroad, but when they shift them they are in effect the agents of violent ethnic cleansing going on across this country.

All the while of course their are distant  plans from the EU and UN for much larger “peacekeeping” forces to come here, but it is all months away. No action and much dithering and handwringing.

When….if….such forces arrive here they will likely find that the reason for coming has long gone. The Christian and Muslim violence will have ended and this country will be monotheistic in a way which we have scarcely ever seen in modern Africa.

It will be a land of “community centres” with odd, broken towers close by: minarets, monuments to the violently expelled Muslims, monuments to the wider world that didn’t care enough to stop it despite all the signs, all the warnings.

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