By Alexander Mezyaev
A coup d’état took place in the Central African Republic this March. The events continue to unfold in the most unfavorable way to aggravate the tragedy. It was clear from the very start that the coup is a result of intense interference from outside. (1) Now the goals are becoming understandable and the prospects foreseeable.
The attempts are on the way to legitimize the military coup and restore the state power. The Transitional Charter was made public in July launching the formation of state agencies to operate during the transition period of a year and a half or two years. The new government is destroying all acts of civil status to complicate the future process of preparing voters’ registration lists. (2) To some extent it reminds the events in Western Sahara. The Moroccans (presumed to be Western Saharans) moved into the country in great numbers to stop the process of identification of those who have a right to take part in the referendum on independence, which has been planned for many dozens of years already. On August 16 the Transitional Constitutional Court judges swore the oath followed in two days by Michel Djotodia, the former leader of Seleka rebel coalition, who was sworn in as the new president of the Central African Republic (CAR) on August 18. It all happens against the background of full and all-embracing collapse of statehood in the country. According to Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of BINUCA (the United Nations integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic) Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye of Senegal, the crisis has affected the entire Central Africa’s population of 4, 6 million. 1,6 million suffer from lack of food and water. Over 200 thousand have become displaced inside the country and around 60 thousand had to flee it. Children don’t go to schools which are destroyed by war or occupied by armed formations. (3)
“The Central African Republic is not yet a failed State but has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken”, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned in her briefing to the Security Council. (4) The central authority still exists (though being in the hands of rebels who have illegally grabbed the power), but the state is non-existent in the provinces: no police, no prosecutor offices, and no courts. There is no industry, no agriculture. It’s already clear there will be no harvest next year and the prospect of hunger is very real (only limited amount of seeds has been sown by peasants). So the human catastrophe is to continue making necessary an “international community intervention”, the idea which is bolstered by practical and information support.
Religion is another aspect to characterize what is happening in the Central African Republic, but somehow it is shied away. Seleca, the group that has captured power, was homegrown in the north; mainly populated by Muslims (the northern part of Central Africa shares its longest border with Chad, a predominantly Muslim country). No matter Muslims make up only 15 percent of the Central African population, they dominate the Seleca ranks. The Chad’s involvement into the Central Africa’s March coup was not an occasion.
It all leads to the supposition that the creation of “failed state” in the Central African Republic is not a ramification of the recent coup, but rather its goal. The situation can be compared to the way some forms of stomach ulcer progress. In case of surgical intervention a sore gets open at another place. In the 1990s the Islamists were driven out of Algeria to appear in Mali. Al Qaeda being driven out of Mali is to appear somewhere else. The Central African Republic’s coup leader Michel Djotodia wrote a letter to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (5) asking for its help to create an Islamic state in the country. No matter he said it was not him, who wrote it, the Christian churches have come under attacks and are subject to devastation. (6) Al Qaeda is not the only one; the region is swarm with terrorist organizations, Islamist groups or Christian sects. For instance, The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord’s Resistance Movement, is a militant movement, which is described by some as a new religious organization or a cult which was operating in northern Uganda and South Sudan. (7) Gradually pushed away from Uganda it now finds refuge in the Central African Republic. Of course, it has no relation to Lord, but it does have relation to diamonds instead – it is located in Upper Kotto, the area where the Central African diamonds are extracted.
The African-Led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (AFISM-CAR,) was launched on August 1, in accordance with the decisions of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. This is the second time the states of Africa try to conduct a peacekeeping operation under an African command. The force is three and a half thousand men strong. The missions assigned are to provide protection to civilians, stabilize the situation in the country, maintain law and order, restore the central government’s power, reshape defense and security structures, and, finally, create proper conditions for providing humanitarian aid to civilians. (8) According to United Nations Charter, the African Union is to receive the United Nations Security Council’s approval. The last Security Council’s session was wrapped up upon taking a decision to go to another office for «informal consultations».
There is a statement too important to be ignored. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic signaled to the Security Council that the African Union force would not be enough to combat the crisis in Central African Republic, which borders six other states. «A much larger and nationally more diversified force is needed to provide security and protect the population», Simonovic said. «Such a force would also prevent foreign rebel groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army or Islamist extremist groups, from finding a safe haven in the country». (9)
The African Union is not unanimous in its attitude towards the new government of the Central African Republic. No matter there is a ban on his movement, Michel Djotodia, the former rebel leader, has already visited a number of states (Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Sudan, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea). Besides, the junta leaders have invited the heads of Central African Economic and Monetary Union for a summit.
The prosecutor of the world’s first permanent court set up to try those accused of genocide and war crimes today voiced her deep concern about the worsening security situation in the Central African Republic and reports of serious crimes being committed there. “My office will do its part in investigating and prosecuting those most responsible for the commission of serious crimes, if necessary”, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), said in a statement. (One should take into consideration the specifics of tropical Africa as a whole and the Central African Republic in particular: the children under the age of 14 years old make up a half of the country’s population). (10) It is a surprise that an International Criminal Court’s prosecutor calls on the international community to help Central Africa provide security. It looks she is not aware of the obvious fact that those who call themselves “the government” now, are the very ones who do commit the crimes the prosecutor is to investigate! It gives rise to expectations that somebody else, not the Seleca rebel coalition and its leaders, is going to be the one to be accused. There are many options, including South Africa. Its soldiers were in the country upon the request of the ousted government led by President François Bozizé, who had to flee. Allegedly they killed a few civilians. Or (what’s even more probable) the charges could be brought on those who tried to stand up to the country’s total destruction and creation of an Islamic state.
The International Criminal Court may exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute crimes. Appropriate evidence should be produced. That’s what has already been alluded to in the United Nations Security Council. The matter is that this May the new Central African government established a national crime inquiry commission to investigate human rights violations and the crimes committed since 2004. According to the United Nations, the inquiry does not meet the standards as an independent and impartial investigative body, so the establishment of international inquiry commission is needed. There is a certain background. The International Criminal Court has just begun hearings on the charges against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – a former vice-president of Congo, rebel leader, and leader of Congo’s main opposition party. Bemba and his troops were invited to intervene in the Central African Republic in 2002 by the then-president Ange-Félix Patassé to help put down a coup. According to the testimony provided by new witnesses for defense, the crimes allegedly committed by Bemba were really committed by the rebels under the command of General François Bozizé (the very same person who overthrew Patassé, no matter the support the Bemba-led forces provided him with, and who, in his turn, was overthrown by the rebels, who seized the capital this March).
The “failed state” concept has been given a boost to be advanced recently. By and large, it has become a kind of pattern to introduce outside rule in the states of Africa. Somalia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Guiney-Bissau, Mali, now the Central African Republic – they are all the examples of creating political offshores as safe havens for international criminal organizations, including terrorist groups. The Central African coup actually took place right after the mopping up operation against the Al Qaeda forces in Mali. Now the elimination of one political offshore haven will automatically trigger the creation of another one.
(1) It happens each time a coup takes place in the CAR during the last fifty years. More in detail: A. Mezyaev, Central African Intrigue: http://www.fondsk.ru /news/2013 /04/ 03/ centralno afrikan skaya -intriga- 19864.html
(2) Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović on human rights, August 14, 2013, the United Nations Security Council // UN Document: S/PV.7017. С.7-8.
(3) The Babacar Gaye’s report, UN Security Council session, August 14 2013//UN Document: S/PV.7017.
(4) Verbatim record, UN Security Council session, August 14, 2013, page.6.
(5) More often mentioned as the Organization Islamic Conference (the name was changed in June 2011).
(6) Christians make up a half of the country’s population (50% – Catholics and 50% Protestants). 35% belong to traditional African religions..
(7) The situation in Uganda and, in particular the Kony’s case, was accepted for consideration by International Criminal Court as far back as in January 2004.
(8) The United Nations Secretary General’s report on the Central African Republic//UN Document: S/2013/470 on August 5, 2013, p.5-6.
(9) The United Nations Security Council, August 14, 2013 session verbatim record, pages 8-9.
(10) The children under 14 make up the 42% of the country’s population. Recalling the internationally recognized definition of the term «a child» (the people under the age of 18), the children represent around 70% of the Central African Republic’s population.
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