The French have a historic role in the current crisis in the Central African Republic in assisting dictators install themselves into power. A way forward is for a Christian and Muslim Monitoring Group to identify individuals perpetrating hate crimes and help bring justice to all victims
In less than two months’ time, the world will be marking the 20th anniversary of the worst genocide seen in Africa since the end of colonialism -- the Rwanda pogrom that began on 6 April 1994.
This was so horrendous that it has irretrievably robbed every African of part of his or her dignity as a human being. Why then are Africans allowing the same thing to happen again in the Central African Republic?
INADEQUATE AU TROOPS TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM
Admittedly, there is an African Union force there already, helping the French to try and save the lives of people threatened by religious strife. But the number of troops is so woefully inadequate that the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, has had to call for an additional 3,000 troops. Why wasn't the initial force large enough?
Mr Ban Ki-Moon's appeal comes in the wake of a violent conflict between Christians and Muslims which, in spite of the presence of the foreign troops, is still escalating.
There is little doubt now that the massacres were initially started by Muslim militias, known as the Seleka. Muslims only make up about 15 per cent of the CAR’s population, but after a coup in March 2013 that brought a self-appointed Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, to power, Muslims began to massacre Christians.
However, after ruling for less than a year, Djotodia, threatened with a regional-cum-international military intervention, resigned in January 2014. This served as an opportunity for Christians to reap vengeance on the Muslims.
As the massacres continued, the French ambassador to the UN, Mr Garard Araud, was forced to confess to a UN meeting in New York on 15 January 2014, that the French had “underestimated the levels of hatred" between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic. Mr Araud admitted: “We knew there was some inter-sectarian violence, but we did not foresee such deep, ingrained hatred.” This was an astonishing admission, for if any country should intimately know the situation in CAR, it is the French. Since CAR was granted its independence by France in 1960, France has always been in the background, dictating the direction the country should take politically.
COLONIAL FRENCH MANIPULATIONS IN CAR
France first constructed a clandestine system of political manipulation in Africa, with President Charles de Gaulle and the African czar, Jacques Foccart, pulling the strings. The Foccart precedent has been followed by almost every other administration in Paris.
The most notorious exhibition of France’s continued tutelage over CAR occurred in 1977, when the French puppet of the time, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, crowned himself as an “emperor.” Inspired by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation in 1804, Bokassa staged his own elaborate self-coronation in Bangui on 4 December 1977.
He donned a coronation robe containing 785,000 pearls and 1,220,000 crystal beads. He next crowned himself with a gold crown topped by a 138-carat diamond that cost over $2,000,000 to manufacture. 240 tons of food and drink were flown into Bangui from France for the coronation banquet. The cost of the ceremony -- $20 million, in a nation whose annual gross domestic product was only $250 million was met almost entirely from French aid grants.
A POWDER-KEG ENGINEERED WITH FRENCH HELP
However, in 1979, France, now disenchanted with Bokassa, engineered his overthrow. He was replaced with -- the very man France had helped Bokassa to overthrow in 1965, David Dacko!
How then could France, while presiding over such a bizarre set of events in CAR, claim to be unaware of the social time-bomb on which the country was sitting?
What really happened is that the French did not care enough about what happened to the country and its people, so long as French companies and their European associates continued to enjoy their profits from CAR's exports of raw materials to them. These include cotton, coffee, rubber, palm-oil , timber, diamonds, uranium, and gold. Indeed, certain highly-placed persons in France are rumoured to have been given diamonds as gifts by CAR rulers.
The question posed by the self-deception of the French is: "What can Africa do now to save the people of CAR from making their country a living hell?
One aspect of the horrible situation that gives me a tiny bit of hope is that as a largely religious conflagration, it may be easier “paradoxically” to douse down than other conflicts. Neither the French troops nor those of the AU can stay in the country permanently, so the UN Secretary-General should look into the future and try to secure a more lasting solution to the bloodshed. I suggest that the Secretary General undertakes a mission to the Vatican and Saudi Arabia immediately to prevail upon the authorities in both capitals to constitute a joint-delegation URGENTLY to go to the CAR.
This delegation should hold public meetings, at which the following measures would be announced:
1. Any Christian militia leaders who incite Christians to kill or harm Muslims, will be ex-communicated by the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Similarly, any Muslim militia leaders who incite their followers to kill or harm Christians will be barred from performing the Hajj [Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca"> for life.
The joint delegation should then constitute a Monitoring Group, made up of enlightened CAR Christian and Muslim leaders, who would observe the situation in the country and compile the names of community leaders and other individuals known to be carrying out hate crimes.
The Vatican and the authorities in Riyadh should publish the names of suspects and prosecute some of them at the ICC.
If such a scheme succeeds in saving lives in the CAR, it could well become an important template for the solution of similar conflicts that arise elsewhere in the world in future.
* Cameron Duodu is a novelist and journalist from Ghana
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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