Potential Hot Spots: The Central African Republic (CAR)

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: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

October 23, 2007: In the past six months, the violence in the northern Central African Republic (CAR) has gotten worse. The latest bout of trouble in the region began in 2005 with what the CAR government called "increasing banditry." Since then, tribes in the north say that, while banditry does occur, they also have a political problem with the government, which has long neglected the north. There are few roads in the region and the roads that exist are in terrible shape. The northern tribes insist that the government uses the "bandit problem" as an excuse to oppress them. France is involved, as is usually the case in France's former colonies. France has a bilateral defense agreement with the CAR. Some of the trouble in the north is spillover from Sudan (Darfur fighting) and France claims it is supporting the CAR government's efforts to protect its borders. Precisely what is going on in northern CAR remains unclear because the region is difficult to reach. Enterprising reporters understandably head for Darfur and Chad (where there are big headlines), so a lot of the information about the northern CAR that manages to get out either comes from French sources, the UN, or occasionally NGOs with a presence in the country. France does play a stabilizing role in the CAR, but that stability also gives Frances access to the CAR's natural resources. France's critics call it "disguised colonialism." In fact, there is a new term for French policy in its former west and central African colonies—"Franceafrique."

September 25, 2007: The UN Security Council approved a new "multi-dimensional presence" in the north-eastern CAR and eastern Chad. The "presence" is supposed to protect humanitarian aid workers and services in the area and protect threatened civilians, many of them refugees from Sudan's Darfur region. European Union military forces will provide part of the UN "presence." The UN's head of mission will be headquartered in Chad's capital, N'Djamena. What the force's mission in the northern CAR will be was not made explicit. The acronym for the Chad-CAR force is MINURCAT.

 

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