Central Africa’s fragile state of peace

By Christian Panika and Michel Cariou ,AFP

BANGUI, Central African Republic — In Central African Republic’s (CAR) capital Bangui, what people remember most about the hatred that bubbled over into a killing frenzy a year ago this week is the smell.

As bloody clashes between the country’s Christian majority and Muslim minority escalated into full-scale civil war, hundreds of bodies littered the streets. ��Residents living near the local hospital could barely breathe because of the stench of rotting corpses from the morgue. It was really hell,�� Euloge Kendzia, a computer scientist, recalls. On Dec. 5, 2013, after receiving the green light from the United Nations, former colonial power France announced it was launching a military intervention to try break the spiral of violence. Twelve months after the deployment of the Operation Sangaris force the massacres have ceased but CAR, which was already one of the world’s least developed nations, is still reeling from the unrest. The poor landlocked country has suffered numerous coups and bouts of instability since independence from France in 1960, but the March 2013 toppling of Francois Bozize’s regime by the Seleka rebel coalition triggered the worst emergency to date.

Relentless attacks by the mainly Muslim rebels on the majority Christian population spurred the formation of vigilante groups, who in turn began exacting revenge on Muslim civilians, driving them out of most parts of the country. Several thousand people were killed in the tit-for-tat attacks, which plunged the population of 4.8 million into an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.