‘EU mission in Central African Rep. unlikely to make a difference’
On April 1 the EU officially launched its military mission to the Central African Republic aimed at supporting French and African forces that have failed to put an end to the ongoing Christian-Muslim violence. The 1,000-strong contingent, dubbed EUFOR RCA, will work to restore security in the CAR capital during a six-month mission, and then will hand it over to the UN peacekeeping operation or African troops.
RT:The objective of this mission is to bring safety and security to the capital. Will they be able to do that do you think?
Ayo Johnson: I believe it is going to be very tricky, very difficult. You are dealing with the issues of sectarian violence which is [engulfing] the entire country in Central African Republic. We have Christian militias which hunt against Muslims and vice versa. They complain that Muslims had attacked them first. And ultimately what we have is violence that have gone out of control. You have a new president, [Catherine] Samba-Panza, the lady who has got a lot of experience in government, but [was] unable to curtail the violence. And we have over the last several months the French troops that have been on the ground unable to resolve the problem, Central African-led forces unable to do the job as well.
Of course, now European troops on the ground unlikely to make the difference because the problems are deep-seated and ultimately are not going to go away in a hurry. The tensions that exist right now mean that many families are fleeing in neighboring countries like Chad, Cameroon, Congo, and not to mention Sudan itself. And all these countries are fragile states, fragile countries - their fragility much more apparent as their own infrastructure which is very weak and stretched and of course this doesn’t help. So ultimately, the European troops on the ground are unlikely to resolve the problems right now.
RT:Why does France continue to deploy large numbers of troops and spend huge amounts of resources on its former colonies?
AJ: Well, the French were coming at the back end of [what they saw as their] victory in Mali, but they have not been able to address the problem, which is why they sought assistance from European allies which is also showing that they don’t have the capability to resolve the problem that they know very little about.
What you do find is that for the French at least, they are trying to rekindle once-lost influence in that part of the world. They are trying to ensure that their companies are multinationals take control over rich minerals that we know exist on the ground – uranium, gold, diamonds – and for the French are concerned that this also provides them an opportunity to get there to help with the infrastructure or the development that is required if the fighting stops.
We know that the French are very keen to influence their own brand of democracy on that part of the world, especially in the CAR right now.
RT:Human Rights Watch has warned the situation in the Central African Republic is at risk of spiraling into genocide. Do you see that as a possibility?
AJ: We are already at a major crossroads. The CAR has millions of people displaced, thousands that have lost their lives. It's a country that is really poor, unable to utilize a lot of the resources that it has because of the fighting that ensued. There is weak governance from Samba-Panza which is not able to govern and control and at least stop the fighting. And of course you have interference which comes from European countries, including the French, to get involved in a conflict that they know so little about.
Ultimately a country with real problems, the violence cannot be stopped, the fighting between the Christians and Muslims is becoming worse, we have seen [it] over the last 10 years at least. Sectarian violence is becoming the norm.
RT:What can be done to avoid further escalation?
AJ: Well, more troops were required from the African-led contingent. Again, the problem you have is that the Muslims who are in the minority do not trust the French troops, so even the peacekeepers themselves are having either to take sides or the people whom they are meant to protect do not trust them for a thousand reasons. So we need more peacekeepers, but ones actually that can bridge the gap between Christians and Muslims, or ultimately we are looking at pouring a lot of money into the country.
Also, [we need] infrastructure, which needs to be developed. And of course [we need] support within the government structures so that mechanisms are in place so that there's a proper trickle-down of the huge wealth that the CAR has in terms of its minerals at least so that the people who are in the masses can benefit and see the benefits themselves tangibly, which has not happened for some time.
Maybe we may stand a chance for a wider population to look beyond sectarian violence which is now ensuing and form of way of life.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.