Since the Séléka Coalition successfully overthrew the government, led by Bozizé, in March 2013, the country is in turmoil. The leader of Séléka, Michel Djotodia, came to power, supposedly as interim-President, but on August 18th, he was inaugurated as President of Central African Republic. Recent events in Syria and Egypt are dominating news headlines right now, other news doesn’t get the attention it should get, like what is happening in Central African Republic (CAR) at the moment. What has happened is clear: a rebel group removed the government from power and installed it’s leader as new President. A successful coup by rebels that have complete their main goal, namely, ousting Bozizé. But what’s next? What are the consequences for CAR and the region with Séléka in power?
First of all, the implications for the civilian population of CAR are enormous. When rebels, who are used to ‘live from the country’, i.e. pillage, rob and rape, are in control, no one is safe. They are not bound in their actions by any official governmental regulations and since Séléka is ‘responsible’ for security in the country, they can do whatever they want to whoever they want and by doing so tightening their grip on power. In practice this means that courthouses are pillaged and police officers have to operate in civilian clothing to avoid problems with Séléka forces. So the traditional parties who are supposed to provide security for the public, are being suppressed by the army that is led by the President. This has resulted in atrocities for which Séléka soldiers are responsible. There are numerous accounts of Séléka troops, killing, arbitrary arrests and detentions, looting and rape. In other words, continuing their ‘business as usual’, but without being hunted by government forces, because they are in fact part of them. For the population in CAR, this is a very distressing situation and numbers of them have already fled their homes. Last week over 5,000 refugees, who have fled the violence in the capital, Bangui, came to Bangui International Airport, blocked the runway and demanded they were transported to Cameroon. Over 200,000 refugees are internally displaced and more than 60,000 have fled the country. With U.N. offices being attacked, there is little hope things will get better in the near future and a U.N. peace force might be send there to restore order. A difficult task, because there have to be negotiations with the government which is led be the leader of the rebels.
Also, there are reports of poaching by Séléka members, threatening precious wild life.
Secondly, being already one of the poorer countries in the region, CAR’s economic situation is likely to deteriorate further. Ousting a President is one thing, running a country is something totally different. So I wonder what Djotodia’s bigger plans with the country are now he’s officially in charge.
For the region, Séléka in power in CAR has also several effects. CAR is likely to become, if it isn’t already, a very chaotic country where there is serious lack of control, a perfect place for other rebel groups and terrorist organizations to hide and plan and conduct operations from. Furthermore, smuggling through CAR won’t be that risky any longer, so a flow of weaponry could stream through the country, which is strategically located in the centre of Africa. Bordering South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR), which are both involved in conflict (with Sudan and M23 rebels respectively), CAR can become a regionally trading hub for smugglers that want to profit from the conflicts in it’s neighbouring countries.
Also, there is a threat that isn’t underlined by objective sources, but of which a persistent stream of reports is circling around. According to Catholic and Christian sources, Séléka is plundering churches and attacking Christians. There are accusations that (parts of) Séléka is also an Islamist organization which seeks to remove Christians from CAR. There are supposedly a lot of Arab speaking soldiers in their ranks. But, as said, these reports do not come from independent sources, so I personally doubt them. However, the reports are there ever since Séléka stepped up their operations in early 2013 and if they are correct, the region could face more problems involving Islamists. But again, I doubt it.
In summary, CAR is currently being led by a rebel force which is resulting in an urgent humanitarian crisis in CAR and a big security gap in the region. A chaotic country will infect it’s direct neighbours in one way or another, be it by streams of refugees or by rebels that are using CAR as a hide out.
I also want to give some remarks on my earlier posts about militias that were reportedly stepping up against Séléka. I haven’t seen any reports about this groups apart from the ‘statements’ which were posted on several websites and I’m not really under the impression that those groups are actually active. Nonetheless, there are reports that civilians are taking measures against Séléka, but seemingly not as organized as they are according to the statements that were released.