The UN must go back to the drawing board with a ‘revision of strategy’ for the war-torn nation, according to Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the Catholic archbishop of Bangui, in a press interview.
This call comes amid sharp criticism of UN peace keepers in CAR of complicity in the killings of civilians by Muslim Seleka militia and reprisals from so called Christian anti-Balaka militia.
The cardinal said, “If they’re just television spectators of the conflict, that won’t do.”
The cleric claimed that the conflict in CAR “is not a religious conflict.” Insisting that, “religious stance has been used only for political ends, for looting and for making off with the (mineral) riches beneath the soil.”
Oumar Kobine Layama, head of the Islamic Conference in CAR, also suggested that conflict was not religious. He pointed to the example of the south-eastern town of Bangassou where the anti-balaka militia attacked a community in May. MINUSCA troops “made all the Muslims come to the mosque and abandoned them,” said Kobine. “If the Cardinal and the bishop hadn’t come to protect them what would have become of them. Who would have been responsible,” asked Kobine?
He added: “Christians and Muslims are now together at the displaced persons’ site. If this was really a war of religions, would they be in the same place?”
Those who kill in the name of Christianity are beyond the pale, said Guerekoyame-Gbangou, President of the Evangelical Alliance of CAR. “They can’t say they’re Christians and go on to kill. All those with such ideas in their heads are outside their faith.”
To demonstrate the interfaith unity among religious leaders, a “platform of religious confessions” was set up by the three leaders in 2013 which earned the UN Human Rights Prize in 2015. This however came at some personal cost to their founders. Kobine has been forced to move house and relatives of Guerekoyame-Gbangou were killed in 2015.
Despite the criticism of the inability to stop the killings against the peace keepers in CAR, Secretary-GeneralAntónio
Guterres, has equally paid tribute to the 12 peacekeepers who have died since January 2017 due to hostile acts. “Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating,” said Mr. Guterres, who made it a point to mark UN Day with peacekeepers who put themselves on the frontlines in some of the most dangerous areas of the world.
In his latest report to the Security Council on CAR, the Secretary-General has requested reinforcements of 900 additional troops for the mission.
A UN report said deteriorating situation has driven about a quarter of the people in the country from their homes and since the start of 2017, the number of IDPs has reached 600,000 and refugees in neighbouring countries number over 500,000.
More than 1 million Central Africans are displaced – inside the country or abroad – and in Bangassou, the camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) has reached 1,800 people and is still growing.
Lieutenant General Balla Keita, Force Commander of MINUSCA that noted “There will never be a military solution for a peacekeeping operation. The solution will be a political one, a genuine negotiation with all parties.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and a Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.