Central African Republic: Mass protests hit French-backed regime
Discontent among the people in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui with the French-imposed government has erupted in demonstrations by both the Muslim and Christian communities. These developments are taking place amid the increasing deployment of foreign military forces mandated for “peacekeeping” operations by the United Nations Security Council and regional bodies.
The number of troops now occupying the CAR include a bolstered French force of 2,000, along with 6,000 personnel from regional African states (MISCA) and 1,000 European Union Forces, and the impending intervention of some 12,000 other soldiers under the rubric of the Security Council. Despite this troop presence, the minority Muslim community still faces organized violence, while more people are being forced out of Bangui and other cities across the country.
Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza was appointed after the forced removal, under French direction, of the previous transitional leader, Michel Djotodia, in January. A Muslim, Djotodia came to power in March 2013 when Seleka Coalition rebels entered Bangui without any real opposition from French troops already in the CAR.
Subsequent human rights violations against the Christian community during Seleka rule prompted reprisal attacks by the Anti-Balaka forces, composed of armed youth.They have been accused of attacking Muslim residents, their homes, mosques and businesses.
On May 30, people took to the streets of the capital protesting the deteriorating security situation. Earlier in the same week 17 people were killed in a church that was attacked while people were taking refuge in the building.
According to CNN, “Hundreds also came out in the streets to protest against the international peacekeeping forces — French troops and the MISCA forces — whom they accuse of doing too little to protect the people. The unrest continued [on May 30].”
In efforts to control the demonstrations, which some reports put in the thousands, foreign troops opened fire. Three demonstrators died from gunshot wounds and further protests followed.
Tensions escalated through June 6 when the current government issued a ban on text messaging, aimed at minimizing the response to a call for a general strike in opposition to the government and the so-called peacekeepers.
The London-based Guardian reported June 6, “The clampdown came after a mass SMS (text message) was circulated urging a general strike in response to more than a year of conflict between Christian and Muslim militias that has killed thousands of people. An organization called Collectif Centrafrique Debout sent out the texts last weekend urging people to stay at home and demanding complete disarmament, especially of the PK5 Muslim neighborhood in the capital, Bangui.”
Anti-French sentiment is growing both among the Christian and Muslim populations who have been bitterly divided by the present neocolonial system of governance. France and other imperialist countries maintain mining interests in the diamond, gold and uranium sectors.
On June 1, Prime Minister André Nzapayeke urged people to end the strike and mass demonstrations and appealed for a voluntary national disarmament campaign.
Residents of Miskine, a Christian-dominated area of Bangui, heckled French troops on June 7 and 8. In Muslim neighborhoods chants of “No to France!” and anti-French insults are commonly shouted at the occupying forces, reported Agence French Press on June 6.
Noël Ngoulo, the secretary general of Bangui University, said, “People are angry at the French because they have the impression that the mission objective has changed, from a mission of disarmament to one of simple intervention.”
Recent events in the CAR illustrate that the deployment of troops from former colonial and present imperialist countries will only further destabilize the political situation in Africa. The United States has provided logistical and intelligence support to the French-led occupation of the CAR.
These foreign policy initiatives are being headed by the Pentagon through the U.S. Africa Command whose presence and influence are being strengthened and enhanced by the administration of President Barack Obama. African workers, farmers and youth will inevitably escalate their opposition to the Western military interventions being carried out across the continent.