While the rest of the world is transfixed on Ukraine and Syria, Africa has a bigger problem in the offing that’s being ignored by powers that be,but hopefully,its aftermath will secure jobs at the ICC,The Hague,an organ that has been assigned the job of cleaning up after genocides in Africa
They said the Rwandan genocide would never
It might not be a
genocide yet, but whatever it is, we’re doing
precious little to stop it happening.
Never again, they said, as they counted bodies left
behind by the Rwandan genocide, ‘they’ being pretty
much everybody with even a passing interest in the
African continent: Rwandans, of course; their
neighbours; international organisations; NGOs;
colonial governments; and the legion of armchair
spectators, watching the carnage from their living
room TVs and hurriedly pledging another £10
donation to Oxfam.
This was an atrocity which no
one, excepting perhaps the Jews, could truly
comprehend, but it didn’t mean its devastation
didn’t reverberate within each of us, our shock at
what had happened tinged by our collective guilt at
not having done enough to prevent it.
Exactly 20 years later, it’s time to face another harsh
truth: we still don’t know how to curb humanity’s
very worst excesses.
Faced with the same conditions,
we would not be able to prevent another Rwandan
And you don’t need to look far past
Rwanda for proof.
Less than one thousand kilometres
away from Kigali, as the gods of war fly, is the Central
African Republic, where law, order and the last
vestiges of the state have collapsed into anarchy and
NGOs think that over a million people have been
internally displaced, and 300,000 Muslims forced to
leave the country altogether in the face of
Their crime is to worship the same god
as the Seleka rebels whose march on Bangui
precipitated the current crisis.
No one is quite sure
how many people are dead – it’s still too dangerous
for anyone to count (even counting the refugees in
the massive, sprawling new camp around Bangui
airport is fraught and unreliable).
Is it a genocide? Maybe, maybe not, although the
debate over nomenclature seems secondary to the
one about what exactly can be done to stem the flow
So far, the international response has been
strangely muted, and there is little sign of this
changing anytime soon.
There are solid, rational reasons for this.
Any kind of military intervention is expensive – and
the Great Powers who would normally participate in
this kind of thing are still dragging themselves out of
an economic depression, one which left their
exchequers empty and their populations increasingly
insular (witness Europe’s immigration crackdown).
Sending huge amounts of money and manpower to
some strange African country is a hard sell, and few
politicians have the moral authority to even try.
exception to this rule is France, which once counted
the Central African Republic amongst its dominions.
But even their contribution of 2,000 soldiers, while
laudable, falls short of achieving anything other than
the absolute basics: protecting French interests and
citizens, and guarding key points like the airport and
The other foreign troops in the country
are drawn mostly from CAR’s neighbours.
from being the solution, some of these are part of the
problem, particularly the Chadian contingent which
did so much to facilitate Seleka’s victory in the first
place – take the Chadian troops who opened fire on
Bangui residents last weekend, killing 24 of them.
Whatever this is, it’s not exactly keeping the peace.
Also, CAR is not the only trouble spot on the global
agenda. Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia – all
vie for very limited attention and funds.
help either that Russia suddenly decided to re-enact
its Cold War glory days with Ukraine – this is, for
Europe and America, a situation that could escalate
into an existential threat to themselves, and is
therefore a far more immediate priority.
European Union, which has been promising 1,000
troops to the CAR since the beginning of the year,
has repeatedly delayed their deployment over fears
that Ukraine could spark a larger conflict (the mission
is now back on, apparently, although we’ll remain
skeptical until the boots are actually on the ground).
As for the United Nations – that organisation which,
in the wake of their Rwandan failure, adopted the
Responsibility To Protect as their guiding doctrine –
well, once again, its responsibility has once again
been sacrificed on the altar of the slowly grinding
wheels of bureaucracy.
Yes, it will intervene; yes, it
will send money and troops; yes, Ban Ki-Moon
remains “very concerned” about the situation.
no, this will not happen quickly: the most optimistic
estimates suggest that it will take six months to put
a full-scale peacekeeping mission together.
context: the Rwandan genocide, all of it, took just
The UN’s sentiments are noble, as always.
Their timing, not so much.
Again, there is a reasonable explanation for this: UN
peacekeeping missions are basically small countries
in their own right, and given the scarcity of existing
infrastructure they have to build or bring everything
themselves: power, accommodation, transport, food,
This takes time.
rush in, especially to the Central African Republic.
Still. Still. These are the same mundane, bureaucratic
factors that conspired to prevent any kind of action in
Rwanda, 20 years ago.
That no one has found a way
around them – not the African Union, not the UN, not
the CAR – is a depressing, devastating indictment of
humanity’s ability to look after itself.
It’s not all doom and gloom. In the absence of a fix, or
even a serious attempt at a fix, we need to take our
comfort where we can find it.
Humanity’s not all bad.
This week, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) launched a
campaign to raise funds for their emergency
operations in Bangui, and in neighbouring Chad and
Cameroon, where they are treating the floods of
If you’ve got money, give them some.
won’t solve anything, but it might just help someone,
For now, from here, that’s about the best
we can do.
Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.