AI on CAR
“NAIROBI, 26 June 2007 (IRIN) – Violence in Sudan and Chad has placed at risk hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR), Amnesty International has warned.
“The northern areas [of CAR] have become a free-for-all – a hunting ground for the region’s various armed opposition forces, government troops, and even armed bandits – some of whom come from as far away as West Africa to kidnap and loot in local villages,” the human rights watchdog said in a statement on 26 June.
In these areas, it noted, armed CAR opposition forces kill civilians who do not support or refuse to join them, while government troops kill civilians they accuse of colluding with the armed groups and burn down entire villages during reprisal attacks.
Preliminary findings of a recent study in the area, AI said, indicated a near complete vacuum of authority to protect civilians – allowing free rein to a host of armed actors.
“The entire area has become a cauldron of violence and fear – threatening to destabilise even further what is already one of the most unstable and dangerous areas in the world,” AI researcher Godfrey Byaruhanga said.
“Civilians are trapped in a lose-lose situation, with many so afraid that they are actually fleeing into Sudan, Cameroon and southern Chad – effectively moving from the frying pan into the fire out of sheer desperation,” he added.
According to AI, it met families whose children – some as young as three years old – had been kidnapped and held for ransom by armed bandits known as Zaraguinas or ‘coupeurs de routes’. “Some parents have had to pay a ransom of up to two million CFA Francs (US$4,000) for a child,” it noted.
“This situation is too dangerous and simply cannot wait,” said Byaruhanga. “The people of the CAR should not be left to live or die at the whim of the Sudanese or Chadian governments, especially when the government has agreed to the deployment of an international force.” “
The political and moral lethargy over these crises in Africa is truly unbelievable, humanity can send probes to Mars, land people on the moon and yet do very little, except expert hand wringing over the catastrophes in Africa.