Nicolas van de Walle, chair of Cornell University’s government department, is an expert in comparative politics who focuses his research on democratization and the politics of reform in Africa. He warns that troubles in the Central African Republic run deeper, and require far more effort to correct, than is widely understood.
“The current humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic is predictable, and indeed was warned about by observers. The current round of ethnic cleansing, currently targeting Muslims in reaction to the violence perpetrated last year by the Seleka militia, largely associated with Islam, is above all the result of a profound and longstanding political crisis in the country, and a weak and largely illegitimate state that has not governed the countryside effectively for many years.
“Various militias have dominated different parts of the country for years, and the state has proven incapable of reigning them in. With such unstable and largely lawless neighbors such as Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it should be no surprise that these militias have become increasingly well armed in recent years, escalating the level of chaos they are capable of perpetrating.
“Given sub-regional realities, the threat for further destabilization is very real and deeply worrying. The current French and African peacekeeping initiatives are to be welcomed, but need to be strengthened and increased, given the sheer size of the country.
“Still, one should be under no illusion regarding how much such international initiatives can accomplish in the short run, given how long the CAR has been allowed to drift aimlessly in severe economic and political crisis.”
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