Central African Republic is ill prepared for Terrible Conflict Going On Now

There is a terrible conflict going on in the Central African Republic right now.  Almost one million people have been displaced in the former French colony by clashes that began when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a coup in March 2013.  Christian self-defense groups known as 'anti-balaka' have since taken up arms against them and the violence has claimed more than 2,000 lives.  This conflict will not command the attention that the ongoing civil war in Syria has.  It will also not reach the news like the continuing conflicts in Iraq.  I wanted to take some time to shine the spotlight on this country.

The Central African Republic came into existence on August 1960.  It was a former French colony.  French soldiers have been some of the first peace keeping entities on the ground to try to keep citizens safe.  It is a country comprised of at least seven major ethnic groups: Baya, Banda, Mandija, Sara, Mboum, Mbaka and Yakoma.  I am wondering if the number of ethnic groups adds to the factionalism or helps with peace.  The country also has an eclectic mix of Protestants, Roman Catholics, Muslims and indigenous religions.  Numerous conflicts between Muslims and Christians are being reported in the news.  The level of violence is frightening to an outside observer.

A statistic about the country that is appalling to me is the life expectancy of 50.9 years.  At my age, I would have approximately six months to live based on the average.  The World Fact Book published by the CIA indicates that AIDS causes excess mortality in this country.  We are making major strides in the United States with regards to this disease.  The country is also the size of Texas with less than 300 miles of paved roads.  I can imagine trying to navigate dirt roads during times of conflict.  Also, trying to navigate the roads to obtain medical care is probably a daunting experience.

The country just elected Catherine Samba-Panza to become its interim president.  Many in the country look at her election as a sign of hope for its war weary citizens.  The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon referred to the conflict as a 'crisis of epic proportions' and a country in 'free fall'.  It is a prediction of genocide if a peace agreement is not reached.  Many of us were horrified by the slaughter that took place in Rwanda when the Hutus and the Tutsis engaged in a major blood bath that claimed almost 500,000 lives.  I am hoping that U.N., African Union and French forces can help to save the lives of this country's citizens.

Historically, this country was called Oubangi-Chari when the French claimed this region located between the Ubangi and Chari river basins.  From 1910 until 1960 it was part of French Equatorial Africa.  Even after its independence in 1960 it was ruled by a succession of emperors or presidents that were never elected.   Democratic elections did not occur until 1993.  Recently, both the President and Prime Minister resigned in January 2014.   This country is one of the poorest in the world and is one of the 10 poorest in Africa.  I hope that a sense of optimism can occur and that the newly elected president can gain support in avoiding additional death and destruction here.

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