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That’s how medical charity MAi??decins Sans FrontiA?res (MSF) describes the country that briefly dominated news in South Africa earlier this year.

The CAR barely qualifies as a country. The descent into hell for many of the 4.5-million people living there is going almost unnoticed.

The CAR already has the second lowest life expectancy in the world ai??i?? 48 years. For years its infant mortality rate has been three times higher than the level used to define a humanitarian crisis. New figures present an even grimmer picture. This week, a group of five nonAi??governmental organisations still operating there held a press conference to highlight the country’s plight. Highlights from the list of what’s gone wrong since the rebel group Seleka took over include a 40% increase in malaria cases this year; at least 70% of HIV-positive patients are no longer receiving their medication, and 50% of those suffering from TB are also no longer receiving treatment.

MSF says the United Nations has adopted a “wait and see” attitude. MSF president MAi??go Terzian says the UN and other donor agencies are waiting for the situation to improve before deciding what to do next, adding that the UN Security Council isn’t going to take any action until there’s an African response to the crisis.

Four months have elapsed since then-president FranAi??ois BozizAi?? was overthrown in a military coup by heavily armed Seleka rebels, led by the current president, Michel Djotodia.

Since then, neither Djotodia nor the regional peace force, Fomac, have managed to disarm the rebels or stop them from looting and ai??i?? far too often ai??i?? killing civilians.

The International Crisis Group’s Central Africa expert Thierry Vircoulon attributes part of the problem to the make up of Seleka.

“It is neither a political party nor a government structure.” he said. “The big difference between the BozizAi?? coup d’Ai??tat and Seleka’s is that BozizAi?? came from the state ai??i?? Seleka is only made up of armed groups from the northeast of the country.”

Ill-equipped and ill-experienced
One of the biggest problems is the lack of money to fix anything. Most soldiers, the former rebels, haven’t been paid in months, if at all, making it even harder for the ill-equipped and ill-experienced administration to maintain any semblance of order.

Seleka security chief Noureddine Adam, the man most CAR watchers see as the real power in Bangui, told current affairs magazine Le Nouvel Observateur that he could restoreAi?? order within a month if he could kill 100 people in order to dissuade others from breaking the law, but then, possibly realising that he should qualify such a statement, added: “But we respect human rights.”

While few tears were shed when BozizAi?? was ousted, it is not an exaggeration to say that there has never been a less-popular administration in Bangui than Seleka. There are rumblings of an imminent attempt by BozizAi?? to get his old job back.

After having gone missing a few weeks ago, allegedly while on his way to South Africa, he is now reported to be in South Sudan, not far from the border of his home country.

Unless he receives significant Ai??outside help, his return to power is unlikely. BozizAi??’s two closest allies while he was president, Chad’s Idriss DAi??by and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, no longer take his calls.

On Monday, CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye travelled to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa to ask for help. AU commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told him she was trying to convince member states to contribute troops to provide security in the CAR.

Meanwhile, the new head of the UN observer mission in the CAR, General Babacar Gaye, arrived in Bangui on Tuesday. Gaye says he’ll be meeting with politicians, members of civil society and regional partners in the next few days.

That’s what his predecessor, Margaret Vogt, had been doing for the past two years; that’s what the previous UN observer mission had been doing since 2000; and that’s what the previous peacekeeping mission had been doing before that.

Locals can be forgiven if their expectations of a UN solution to their Ai??crisis are low to nonexistent.


David has worked extensively with the UN on media projects in conflict and post conflict zones from the Balkans to the Central African Republic, including the conception and implementation of the hugely successful Radio Okapi network in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Current projects include establishing a Kanuri-language radio station in the Lake Chad Basin, targeting areas affected by Boko Haram. Dandal Kura broadcasts from studios in Maiduguri, and has been on the air since January 2015. David also provides political analysis on conflict zones and fragile states for various media outlets as well as think tanks. Through Okapi Consulting, David Smith conceived and implemented a United Nations sponsored radio project, Bar-Kulan (meeting place in Somali), established for the people of Somalia and the Somali Diaspora. His background in electronic media is extensive, including producer positions with the international public broadcasters of Canada and the Netherlands as well as managing a commercial transformation project at South Africa's Capital Radio. David’s work in development began in Zimbabwe shortly after independence as part of an education programme funded by the Canadian government to help get young Zimbabweans back into classrooms after the war in that country had ended. While on mission, he hunts down books by local authors and writes about both the book and the search for it in Book Safari, a column in the Mail & Guardian newspaper (Johannesburg).

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