African conflict

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Saturday, January 11, 2014


WHILE natural calamities (such as Typhoon Yolanda) have brought deaths, sufferings and property damages, far worse are man-made ones that come from conflicts among peoples because of differing beliefs, ideologies and ethnicity.

The deadliest war was World War II, with 50 million to 70 million people killed (between 500,000 to 1 million from the Philippines). World War I accounted for 8.5 million people dead.

After World War II when we thought the world had learned its lesson, killings continued: Korean War (1.8 to 4.5 million); the Vietnam War (7.8 million including those in Cambodia and Laos); Darfur, Sudan (400,000); and in the Philippines (100,000 during the Marcos regime).

Today, the conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) has resulted in more than 1,000 people killed and displaced nearly 1 million. Once colonized by France, the CAR gained independence in 1960, but its founding father, Barthélémy Boganda died in a suspicious plane accident in 1959.

A power struggle immediately followed between the two associates of Boganda, David Dacko and Abel Goumba. When Dacko won, he had Goumba arrested. But five years later, a coup d’etat had a military officer, Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa taking over. He later proclaimed himself as emperor of the Central African Empire.

From there on, the change in leadership became more frequent with coups backed by France, if not initiated by military officers. There had been democratic elections but the cycle of violence never stopped until the present.

Elected as president in 2011 was Francois Bozize, a general who seized power in 2003.

Threatened by a coalition of rebels, Bozize entered into a power sharing government in January 2013 only to be deposed by the Seleka rebel group that installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, as interim leader. He has failed to control those who put him in power.

The conflict has transformed to differing religions, as the Muslims (15 percent of the population) have attacked Christians (50 percent), and Christian militias have responded violently.

In late 2013, the United Nations issued a statement that CAR was at risk of spiraling into genocide, while France admitted that it was “on the verge of genocide." There have been calls for involvement of peace troops from the European Union, but the response has been lukewarm after six peacekeepers from the African Union were killed on Christmas Day.

The UN, the European Union and the African Union are scrambling for a resolution of the conflict in CAR. But while outsiders can offer help, the leaders of the warring factions in the Central African Republic have a bigger responsibility to find peace in their 53-year old nation.

There have been so much blood spilled; and more will be shed should parties not genuinely seek what is best for their nation, for their people.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 11, 2014.

Opinion

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