Blog: Central African Republic – All Civil Populations Must Be Protected

By Thierry Brigaud, President of Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World 

Providing healthcare, bearing witness. In Bangui, it is increasingly difficult to provide healthcare and increasingly urgent to bear witness.

On a daily basis, Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World teams are seeing with horror the extent to which medical transport has become high risk for Muslims. Ambulances are immobilised and sometimes attacked. Many patients no longer dare to set out.

Not only does this terrorised population no longer receive healthcare, but people are beginning to flee their homes in very large numbers, gathering in make-shift camps before embarking on an exodus as dangerous as it is hypothetical.

In just a few weeks, Amnesty International has gathered over a hundred witness accounts of the attacks carried out by anti-balaka militias against Muslim civilians. In the north of the country, other witnesses tell of new persecution of Christians by Seleka rebellion troupes that have not all disarmed.

Amnesty International is now speaking of ethnic cleansing in Central African Republic.

However, on 5 December 2013, the United Nations’ Security Council gave an explicit mandate to the African Union MISCA and the French Sangaris forces to neutralise armed groups and protect civilian populations. It goes without saying that the UN resolution was made with all Central African communities in mind, without distinction.

Since then, the central African political situation has changed radically, internal power relationships have largely been reversed, but neither of these objectives has been achieved today.

And in the field, some humanitarians continue to see and report the asymmetrical protection of the populations.

The international occupying forces that sometimes witness, without reacting, the massacre of civilians close to its positions is, in fact, becoming complicit.

Furthermore, if we wanted to remove any doubt of complicity and truly protect all Central Africans, given the scale of the task, far greater means than those deployed today would be required.

Last summer, when France was still only in the preparatory stages of a possible intervention, humanitarian organisations present in the CAR were received at the Élysée by the head of state in person. An exceptional moment that perhaps should have alerted us to the dangers of the instrumentalization of our alarming observations and the repetition of a familiar scenario: that of a “just” war, in which the French army puts itself in the position of international policeman, with the risk at any moment of propelling itself into the role of the sorcerer’s apprentice.

We all know that the reconstruction of a country requires a costly effort over the duration in which the entire international community must be involved. The example of the Democratic Republic of Congo is eloquent. When a negotiation is entered into between the different armed groups and their regional supporters, backed by a clear UN peace-keeping mandate, differences that seemed inextricable can begin to resolve. The new intervention strategy in the Kivus, despite attracting much criticism, shows that it is sometimes possible to protect civilian populations.

In CAR, France has just replaced a putschist president with an interim president. A real democratic process must validate this change.

The risk must also be taken of bringing together different stakeholders from Central African society in a national conference that will set the bases for the reconstruction of the country.

The African Union must play its part and the UN take its responsibilities.

If not, the massive displacements of people can only increase, along with their procession of misfortune and desolation. And once again we will witness a murderous war in which civilians are the main victims. With only a few humanitarians to be moved by it all.