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Inbox Civil war in central Africa unnoticed by outside world Thousands of people are being massacred in the heart of Africa, with the international community standing accused of turning a blind eye. Civilians are being murdered by militia in an internal struggle between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country seldom acknowledged by anyone outside of its borders. France has warned that the CAR stands “on the verge of genocide” in what US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has termed “the worst crisis most people have never heard of”. Survivor accounts include tales of babies being swallowed screaming by boa constrictors after their mothers have been murdered, children garrotted in front of parents and adults thrown handcuffed into crocodile-infested rivers. “I saw a woman shot in the leg, with a child whose intestines were falling out,” a man who identifies himself only as ‘Romeo’ told The Guardian. CAR, which spans a landmass greater than France, is a blind spot for the international community and a haven for warlords like Joseph Kony, who is presently rumoured to be negotiating surrender with its government. The current humanitarian crisis has seen nearly 400,000 people displaced, with many seeking refuge in the country’s jungles, and 68,000 escaping to neighbouring nations. But turmoil is not novel in a country that has, since independence in 1960, undergone five coups over-layered by a thin government structure and self-elected officials. The latest upsurge began in March when then President François Bozizé fled the country in a helicopter with a bundle of suitcases after being ousted by a loose coalition of rebels, bandits and guns-for-hire known as the Séléka. One of the group’s leaders, Michel Djotodia, declared himself President – the first Muslim to rule the mostly Christian nation. The situation rapidly deteriorated in September when the new President disbanded the Séléka, resulting in a mass revolt by the militias who turned on villages – burning, looting and killing. What began as an uprising against a corrupt president has become a religious war. Most Séléka members are Muslim, while some Christians are forming ‘anti-balaka’ militias to fight back – a name that translates as ‘anti-sword’ or ‘anti-machete’. Atrocities continue on both sides, spurring each party to further aggression. “The silence of the international community is like they are accomplices allowing this to happen,” said Father Frédéric Tonfio, head of the UNICEF Catholic mission centre for survivors at the St Antoine de Padoue Cathedral in Bossangoa. This should not be called a genocide – yet, says Human Rights Watch researcher Lewis Mudge. He added that the international community still has time to prevent another Rwanda. Kazakhstan’s democratisation ‘not progressing’, despite advice from Tony Blair Freedom campaigners in Kazakhstan have criticised former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his governanceconsulting firm for failing to make a difference in the country’s quest for democratisation. Tony Blair Associates finished its two-year period of advising Nursultan Nazarbayev’s government in October and, while it tried to improve freedom of speech for Kazakhstan’s citizens, critics insist it has not worked. “Unfortunately, over the two years that Tony Blair’s been a consultant for Astana Kazakhstan’s capital, we haven’t seen any changes for the better,” opposition leader Amirzhan Kosanov told The Guardian. Instead, there has been “a deterioration in the human rights and political freedoms situation, a further tightening of the screws”. This includes the Zhanaozen massacre in December 2011, where 15 civilians were killed after police opened fire on protesters rallying for workers’ rights. Tony Blair’s company has maintained, however, that its work has made an impact. A spokesman said: “Of course the country faces challenges but that is precisely why we should engage and support its efforts to reform… We simply do not agree that the situation in this regard has deteriorated.” Blair himself dismissed any accusations that he made a personal profit from the multi-million pound deal. Both Mongolia and Albania have signed similar contracts with the firm. Some civilians have fled into the jungle to escape hostilities global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 9


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