As the security situation in the Central African Republic worsens, a coalition of NGOs including the Enough Project urges a comprehensive U.S. government strategy to halt violence, protect civilians, and defend human rights. Since Michel Djotodia seized presidential powers when the capital of Bangui fell to Seleka rebels in March 2013, he has been unable to prevent violence against civilians from escalating. On November 13, John Ging, director of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned, “We are very, very concerned that the seeds of genocide are being sown.”
The warning signs point to an urgent need for international intervention, and the U.S. government has already begun to react. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power referred to the situation as “the worst crisis most people have never heard of.”
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, held a hearing on the crisis on November 19. Those who offered testimony included Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert P. Jackson, Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia of CAR, Mike Jobbins of Search for Common Ground and Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch. Joining Representative Smith were Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Tom Marino (R-PA), and Mark Meadows (R-NC), as well as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Ed Royce (R-CA).
As conditions rapidly deteriorate for the people of CAR, international leaders must work together to quickly develop a strong course of action to defuse the conflict, provide for civilian protection, and prevent mass atrocities. The NGO coalition letter urges U.S. action in five key areas: join international efforts toward stabilization, support violence prevention and conflict transformation activities, increase support for humanitarian activities, create an environment to end impunity and stop abuses, and work to build a foundation for political transition.
Following a recent visit to CAR, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Enough Project Fellow Mia Farrow said CAR has “an abandoned population, because the world has looked away.” With the effective collapse of the central state, armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, Janjaweed, Seleka leaders, and pro-Bozize forces are controlling large parts of the resource-rich country, endangering civilians.
Strong U.S. leadership in the international community at this critical time could help to prevent mass atrocities in CAR.
Photo: Rebel soldiers drive through the center of the capital Bangui in Central African Republic, Tuesday, March 26, 2013 (AP)