The ongoing surges of deadly conflict in Central African Republic demand action from the United Nations. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is applicable to this situation, and human rights groups are calling for the strengthening of peacekeeping forces in CAR to protect the population from further war crimes.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., visited the capital city Bangui on Thursday for talks with CAR President Michel Djotodia. Power called for urgent action to end the "vicious violence" and told victims: "We have come here to hear how you, the people of Central African Republic, are doing and how we can help."
After Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) militia went door to door in Bangui murdering about 60 Muslims, former Séléka Coalition rebels, primarily Muslims, retaliated by attacking and killing almost 1,000. The violence has not stopped. The death toll, according to early U.N. estimates, reached about 600, with 200,000 displaced. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch now say the numbers are much higher, with Amnesty claiming its research "left no room for doubt that crimes against humanity have taken place, including extra-judicial executions and mutilation of bodies.”
Amnesty also claimed that civilians are being hacked to death and villages razed to the ground on a daily basis, even after French and African Union forces stepped in. About 1,600 French soldiers have been dispatched to the former colony, working with about 6,000 African Union force members. They are making efforts to disarm militia groups to stop the atrocities, establish security for the local populations, and enable humanitarian organizations to work.
Human Rights Watch reported that during recent violence at Bossangoa, a northern town in CAR, parents were forced to watch as militia members slit the throats of their children.
The United States has authorized $100 million to support the international forces with supplies and trucks, while President Obama augmented an initial $40 million with $60 million in added Department of Defense funds. USAID has given a total of $24.6 million in humanitarian assistance.
The R2P doctrine states that the international community must respond when a country fails to protect its civilian population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity. The systematic war crimes in Central African Republic demand protection for civilians, and current forces thus far have not solved the problem.
"Lots of people in our own government lived through Rwanda, lived through the crimes in the Balkans, are living now through the crimes in Syria," Power also said. "Every day we are thinking about which tools can we employ in order to prevent atrocities in the first instance."