France fuels sectarian killing in CAR

France fuels sectarian killing in CAR
# 14 December 2013 18:58 (UTC +04:00)

Up to 500 people have reportedly been killed over the past week and tens of thousands have fled their homes to escape further deadly clashes.

The impoverished state of 4.6 million people was already suffering from a food crisis, with a quarter of the population said to be without supplies. Now the fear of sectarian fighting is adding to the plight of this African country.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, on a visit to the CAR capital, Bangui, at the weekend, warned that “violence is spiraling out of control” and that the country is facing a “humanitarian crisis”.

But this is exactly the kind of bloody chaos that some analysts were predicting would take place – precisely because of France’s reckless military intervention in its former African colony.

Earlier this week, French President Francois Hollande, also on a visit to the CAR, paid tribute to two French paratroopers killed in a gun battle in Bangui. He said the French intervention was necessary “to avoid a bloodbath”.

Hollande is distorting the facts. The carnage in the CAR erupted after heavily armed French soldiers began patrolling the streets. French troops are not preventing mayhem; they are inflaming it.

The upsurge in inter-communal bloodletting occurred days after French troops began arriving in the CAR on 2 December. The violence reached a peak three days later when nearly 400 people were killed in the capital. Prior to France’s troop intervention there were reports of sporadic violence in remote parts of the country, but not in the capital itself nor on such a massive scale.

There are now 1,600 French troops in the CAR along with some 3,000 African Union forces, but the bloodshed shows no sign of abating.

This is because the French military intervention is fuelling sectarian tensions and is giving a free hand to militia groups from the dominant Christian population, known as “anti-Balaka”, which are launching attacks on defenceless Muslim communities.

In several incidents in Bangui over the past week, French military checkpoints were seen to be disarming Muslim militias while ignoring the armed Christian groups. There are also reports of Christian gangs looting Muslim businesses as gun-toting French soldiers stand idly by watching.

This is creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the minority Muslim community. Not surprisingly, there are reports of deadly reprisal attacks by Muslims on Christians. But it seems fair to say that the preponderance of violence is being meted out against

One French army captain told the BBC that it is “easier to disarm Muslim militia than Christian because the former have been largely confined to barracks”. This one-sided approach by the French is leaving the Muslim community feeing vulnerable to attacks.

In one of the latest atrocities, 27 Muslims in the northern town of Bossangoa were slain on Thursday, according to the UN. In another massacre, six Muslims were killed in a house in the village of Bohong, in the West of the country.

The precise identity of the attackers is not known, but various sources attribute the killings to the anti-Balaka militia, which have
recruited former soldiers who were loyal to the ousted Christian president Francoise Bozizé.

Bozizé was kicked out of office in March earlier this year by a rebel alliance known as Seleka. The Seleka are mainly Muslim and the new interim president, Michel Djotodia, is the first Muslim leader of the mainly Christian country. Christians comprise about 40 per cent of the population, Muslims 15 per cent, and the rest profess aboriginal beliefs.

The deposed Bozizé, who is reportedly living in exile in France, was backed by the French, who put in him in power in 2003 by orchestrating a coup against an elected leader, Ange Felix Patassé. Bozizé was notoriously corrupt and hardly has a popular mandate, but remnants of his army have remained loyal and filled the ranks of the anti-Balaka militia.

One can safely assume that if Bozizé or a lackey were reinstated to the presidency that would suit French interests.

Western media narrative, influenced by French government spin, has tended to blame the chaos and violence in the CAR on the Seleka rebels, without substantiation.

However, various sources contend that it was the Christian-based anti-Balaka who began inciting violence against Muslim civilians during September.

Then French government officials started issuing dire warnings to the media of genocide looming in the CAR. These warnings and clamoring for “humanitarian intervention” paved the way for Paris to push the UN Security Council to vote for a French-led “peacekeeping mission”.

With suspicious haste, the French government pre-empted the UNSC authorization given on 5 December when it began sending hundreds of its troops three days before that date.

Of significance is the sudden recall by Paris of its ambassador to the CAR at the end of last month. Serge Mucetti had only served less than two years in the post. His recall under orders from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was not given any official explanation but it seemed strange at a time when the French were about to embark on a major military operation in the CAR.

Mucetti had previously worked for many years as a French government advisor on expatriate matters. One can assume that he had accurate knowledge of situations on the ground.

Added to this is the widely acknowledged fact that sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic was unheard of prior to this recent upsurge.

The bets are that the former French ambassador was not toeing the official Paris government line that the CAR was “on the brink of genocide” and he was pushed out of his post so as not to spoil the upcoming narrative underpinning French intervention.

The narrative of chaos and sectarian violence has been talked up by France for the past several weeks, and now tragically is becoming reality. This chaos is providing France with a convenient cover for its intervention in this resource-rich African country.

With the same land area as France and with only seven per cent of France’s population, the CAR is a treasure trove for exploitation. It is abundant in oil, hydropower, agriculture, forestry, gold, diamonds,copper and other minerals, prime among them uranium ore, the fuel of choice for nuclear energy. Some 80 per cent of all French electricity production comes from nuclear power.

Rather tellingly, French President Hollande asserted this week: “France is not here in the Central African Republic out of any
self-interest… France has come to defend human dignity.” That assertion sounds suspiciously guilt-ridden.

The plain truth is France has intervened in CAR for a neo-imperialist bonanza. But it needs a pretext of humanitarianism and sectarian chaos to cover up its naked criminality. This would explain who is engineering the bloodletting in that unfortunate country; and the blood trail goes all the way to Paris.