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Central African Republic's miserable exodus

Intervention by foreign powers has so far done little or nothing to stop violence in the former French colony.
Last modified: 10 Apr 2014 18:04

The killings continue in the Central African Republic. And what's left of the Muslim community makes desperate efforts to flee from the country.

If you want an idea of how this miserable exodus plays out on the ground, read this powerful report from the LA Times.

So the United Nations Security Council’s approval of a peacekeeping mission, which will take over from the beleaguered African Union force, is welcome news.

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon first proposed such a force back in November. I'm told the negotiations in the Security Council were difficult- the Americans were concerned about the cost, and the Russians and Chinese worried about what powers the force would have.

Whoever is to blame, the delay is a tragedy - thousands of lives have been lost in the meantime. And even the UN force, expected to include 10,000 soldiers and some 1,800 policemen, is far too small for the task before it, and is not expected to be deployed until September.

The EU reaction has also been less than glorious.

When the EU agreed to send about 1,000 soldiers in January, to help the French soldiers already on the ground to keep security in and around Bangui, the capital, the idea was that they would be in the CAR by late February. Instead, they are only beginning to arrive now, and it is still not clear where many of the European soldiers will come from.

The last I heard Georgia, which is not even in the EU, was making one of the most generous offers. The Baltic republics also made offers, but, understandably, have been somewhat distracted in recent weeks by a possible threat from a resurgent Russia. But, apart from France, what have we seen from the wealthiest countries in western Europe? Precious little.

In the meantime, Bangui has been all but emptied of Muslims, and the CAR's social fabric has been ripped apart.

One American official said, "It's a complete mess…we could be there for 20 years." He got that right.

The newly arrived peacekeepers are going to face a horrible dilemma: Do they provide escorts to the thousands of Muslims who still want to leave CAR? And, in doing so, will they not be complicit in the final "religious cleansing" of that country? That is the consequence of actions that are too little, and too late. Not that we should need any reminding of that, in the same week that we have been commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.