Two decades ago the world made a vow to ‘never again’ let genocide like the Holocaust, Rwanda, or Bosnia reoccur. Organizations like the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International sprung up with missions to deter and stop future genocide.
And yet, genocide may be developing right under our noses. The situation in the Central Africa Republic has received media attention for the coup that removed the government in March 2013 and the lynching of a young Christian man by Muslims in February 2014. The news reports have hinted at the ethnic conflict developing into genocide, but no successful action has been taken.
Why did the conflict develop?
Currently, 1 million of the C.A.R.’s 4.6 million population has fled their homes, and over 2,000 people have been murdered in the last 11 months.
At its heart, the conflict developed after a coup led by a Muslim militia disposed of former President Francois Bozize for war crimes and broken promises. But this wasn’t the first coup the C.A.R has faced. Since gaining independence from France in 1960, there have been 5.
The difference is this coup ensued an violent uprising of minority Muslims against the Christian majority. But the angry uprising stemmed from more than a corrupt leader.
The Central African Republic is a country rich in natural resources like gold and diamonds. Traders tend to be Muslims and miners tend to be Christians. The give and take bargaining relationship between the miners and the middlemen is the true friction that led to the current wildfire.
The antibalaka (antimachete) are the Christian militias who have the upper-hand out of sheer majority. They are hunting down Muslim rebels, or the Seleka, who target Christians. Unfortunately, since Seleka was dissolved by leader Michael Djotodia in September 2013, the antibalaka have just been killing Muslims. In response, Muslims have formed another militia group to defend themselves, the Organization of Islamic Resistance.
Interim President Catherine Samba- Panza, former mayor of Bangui, has less than a year to resolve the mess before the next elections are held.
Is it genocide?
Ethnic cleansing is a relatively new term, developed in response to the conflict in Yugoslavia. Refined and redefined, the U.N. Security Council defines ethnic cleansing as the
“Purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas”
While the conflict in the C.A.R. has all the catalysts the Rwanda Genocide displayed, it has not spiraled into the total annihilation of one ethnic group yet. But if the West does not join the French and the African Union peacekeeping forces, it may have to redefine it’s definition of “never again.”