JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
THIS WEEK I LEARNED THAT AT least 400 people have been killed in Central African Republic (CAR), where an interreligious conflict rages on. Most of the victims are those who cannot defend themselves – women and children. It could have been worse, had foreign peace-keeping forces not been there.
Days ago, the United Nations authorized a French military intervention, in collaboration with the African Union troops, to disarm the rebels and protect the civilians. This was a very bold, vital step forward. The conflict, if not averted, could result into the repeat of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, which left close to a million people dead. International inaction in Rwanda stoked discontent amongst human rights groups. And it was reasonable. If the world had cared about the lives of the innocent, so many people would not die. A swift action to restore peace should have been taken straight from the echelons of the United Nations.
With respect to CAR, France deserves credit. They seem more, than any other Western countries, committed towards stabilizing the African region. Earlier this year, they assisted the Malian army in ousting the Islamist rebels that had taken control of the north of Mali. And now they have deployed at least 1500 troops in CAR. These military operations are very costly, and for Francois Hollande to continue with foreign expenditure, given fiscal constraints, is quite bravery. Of course there are those who believe that there are political motives that drive France back to its former colonies, like Mali, CAR and Ivory Coast. Well, we don’t know whether that is true. Even if it were true, I’d care more about countless civilians protected than any political motive that may lie behind the French intervention in most troubled African countries.
The presence of foreign peace-keeping forces in CAR will ensure that the situation does not deteriorate. They will have to remain there though, until the situation stabilizes. How long will that take? I’m not sure. The next step for that impoverished country is to hold free and fair elections, after the coup that overthrew President Francois Bozize who had ruled since 2003. PM
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI