Reporter's Notebook

Broken CAR: The slow erosion of a state

Refugees in CAR. Photo credit: Nicolas Rost

Refugees in CAR. Photo credit: Nicolas Rost

Things are getting worse. That’s the message on CAR in a piece reported by Tristan McConnell for GlobalPost. Presaging the story for War is Boringback in August, I wrote:

In a state where political leadership has been subject to cyclical coups, where power is expressed primarily through the financial means to arm, train and sustain violence, stability will only be found through tortured battle.

That battle, however, was quick to impact nearly all of the country’s 4.4 million people. When I asked the local U.N. representative, Babacar Gaye, about the current state of affairs, his response was dire:

We are in a situation of lawlessness. You have the appearance of power, you have the appearance of a country, but the government has no authority.

Soon, some international actors were calling for action. France, specifically, noted that the CAR was on the brink of “Somalization”, an ode to same condition of lawlessness McConnell alludes to with the title of his new piece. And yet, after the Syrian chemical weapons crisis of August and September, Hollande seemed to walk-back a previous claim that French troops were at the ready. McConnell writes today (my emphasis):

France, which has about 400 soldiers in CAR, is pushing most strongly for moves to stabilize its former colony. But France says it has no intention of deploying thousands of its own troops there, as it did in Mali at the start of the year when it was feared Al Qaeda aligned militant groups were poised to overrun the country.

Finally, McConnell’s notes that CAR’s disintegration has led to further instability, and perhaps a new safe haven, for extremist forces from Chad and Sudan to the east and Mali and northern Nigeria to the west.

Long-term, however, the fractured nature of the rebels should be a warning. In the closing moments of my interview with Mr. Gaye last month, I asked his opinion of Séléka, the coalition group now working to dethrone the CAR’s new government.

“There is always risk of implosion of a coalition,” Mr. Gaye said.  “A revolution always eats its own babies like that.”

The question now is how many lives will be eaten in the process.

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