Aid workers in CAR have reported that more than five hundred people have been killed in CAR since last week in fighting between the mostly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias, said to be loyal to ousted President Francois Bozize. Current President and former leader of the Seleka group has Michel Djotodia has repeatedly denied reports suggesting a rapid downward spiral toward sectarian strife and possible genocide, saying in the past said that the violence was an expression of “revenge” by the people for abuses by the previous leadership. More recently he continued to blame the former regime for the violence, saying effectively that the citizenry of CAR was either with him or against him.
The violence has showed no signs of stopping. The UN said earlier in the week that it estimated four hundred people had been killed or injured in fighting since the previous Thursday, that almost a half a million people had been displaced since the overthrow of Bozize in March, and that some 2.3 million people, half of the country’s population, were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. These were among the factors that prompted the decision by the UN Security Council on December 5th to give a UN mandate to the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) and authorize a French intervention in the country. The African Union had also said it would be looking to increase the size of MISCA, and today officially authorized an increase in the size of the force to a total of 6,000 personnel. Despite the immediate efforts, the situation remains dangerous. Two French soldiers were killed on the 10th in fighting with armed groups in CAR.
The US and United Kingdom have both been working to rapidly move French and African forces into CAR. The Royal Air Force has been flying missions from France to CAR, while the US has deployed personnel to Uganda, Burundi, and CAR to coordinate efforts to help deploy African peacekeepers into the country. The first US mission from Burundi to CAR was reportedly flown yesterday. US Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Africa are in Burundi acting as a logistics support element for the operation there. They had already been deployed in Burundi as part of an existing effort to train logistics companies for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). It remains unknown at this time who is the force provider for the command element in Uganda or the security element in CAR.