I will preface this by saying that I have been an amateur student of conflict in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) for many years now. I’ll tell anyone who listens that the ongoing instability there is a regional threat. Predicting violence in CAR is hardly Sylvia Brown stuff, but even I am taken aback by the turn this conflict seems to be taking.
As a very short background, CAR wasn’t stable during colonialism, and it hasn’t been stable after. They’ve experienced some of the worst African dictators, interspersed with coups and general violence. Up until recenty, the major issue was that the central government simply didn’t have much power- not much manpower, not much firepower, and not much credibility. Unable to raise a military or police force any stronger than the presidential guard, the central government traditionally relied on regional powerbrokers/warlords to keep some level of control outside the capital. This never worked particularly well, and much of the country has been on ongoing battle between displaced soldiers turned road bandits and local militia groups that alternatively join in the maurading.
CAR has also been blessed with a particularly unfortunate set of neighbors, and everyone from warloads from Darfur to Joseph freaking Kony have sauntered in to cause trouble.
Anyway, despite having followed the conflict somewhat closely, I have been pretty shocked at the speed that it’s somehow evolved into a religious confict. I honestly don’t think that was the primary divide just a few years ago. But, then again, a lot of things have changed in religion in the area, and I think that areas that were previously pretty relaxed in terms of religious tension are now joining in on the hate bandwagon.
So, that brings us to today, where we have tens of thousands of Muslims fleeing Christian militias, who claim to be seeking revenge for previous attacks. I’ve seen some new footage that is pretty distrubing- militia members swearing to drive all Muslims from the country of slaughter them. Mosques are being destroyed, and churches offering shelter to Muslims are being persecuted and threatened. The violence occurring is horrific, with rape, torture, and crimes against children becoming common. Much of the Muslim population is fleeing to nearby countries. Recently, a man who fell off of an evacuating truck was immediately murdered by the waiting crowd. It’s bad. And unfortunately, the areas where the refugees are fleeing-- largely remote border regions of Cameroon and Chad-- are ill-equipped to host any kind of refugees, being extremely poor themselves. Adding to the issue is that Muslims traditionally do the bulk of the cattle herding, and their exodus apparently threatens to trigger a massive food crisis.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this conflict? Anyone else following it? And on the other hand, can we finally put to rest the idea that Muslims are uniquely boodthirsty? I don’t know how this conflict turned into a religious one, but this conflict reflects pretty badly on everyone.