When one hears of genocide, most often the Holocaust comes to mind first. Some of us are old enough, though, to remember such atrocities in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda in the 1990s. The latter marked 20 years just recently. Each time we hear of such things, we always say, “never again.” But each time it happens, we tend to turn a blind eye to it as if ignoring the situation will make it better or go away.
In Rwanda, it was the Hutus and Tutsis that were trying to eradicate each other. In Kosovo, it was ethnic Albanians versus ethnic Serbs. And in Bosnia, there were Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim Bosniaks all fighting each other. With history as hindsight, it was our first glimpse of the larger Christian versus Muslim conflict that was playing out around the world… something we would be brought into more directly with the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In December 2012, the mostly Muslim Seleka forces began a coup against the government, which culminated in a seizure of power in March 2013. They would remain in power for 10 months and during that time, according to Amnesty International, they “were responsible for massacres, extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, looting, and massive burning and destruction of Christian villages.”
The president of the new government, Michel Djotodia, declared the Seleka disbanded in September 2013 though most of the militias refused to disband. But as such atrocities mounted, he resigned in January 2014 due in large part to regional pressure. A new interim government was formed and a new interim president was elected on January 20.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has flown to CAR to meet with the interim president who still has very little power or control over the situation.
With the Seleka forces now in retreat, the Christian forces (anti-balaka) are now committing the same offenses against the Muslim communities as had been done to them. And the Seleka forces are still committing the same attacks on Christian communities as they retreat. It’s a slaughter running right down the religious divide of Muslim versus Christian.
In February 2014, Amnesty International released a report which stated that “International peacekeepers have failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians in the western part of the Central African Republic.” It went on to further criticize the tepid response from the international community to the situation.
“My father, Soba Tibati, could hardly walk and could not run away when the anti-balaka attacked our village. They decapitated him in front of my eyes as he sat on a straw mat under a tree outside our hut. Twelve other members of my family were also massacred in the same attack. The youngest was a baby girl who was just six months old.”
Dairu Soba, survivor of an attack by anti-balaka fighters on January 8.
Courtesy: Amnesty International
On April 10, 2014, the United Nations passed Security Council resolution 2149, which authorized the deployment of a multidimensional United Nations peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA) with the protection of civilians as its top priority.
Other tasks include “support for the transition process; facilitating humanitarian assistance; promotion and protection of human rights; support for justice and the rule of law; and disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation processes.”
Regardless, the world can no longer ignore and turn a blind eye to the ongoing situation in the Central African Republic. Genocide is still genocide regardless of who is committing the atrocity. We should never utter the words, “Never again,” as we should put a stop to genocide at any moment it arises. Instead, we should look to the motto, “Not now; not ever.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images