The images shown on television are eerily reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 that the world sat back and watched; a young man was burned alive while the crowd watched the flaming body. An Al-Jazeera TV reporter pointed the microphone at an armed young man in the crowd. “We will continue to do this to Muslims,” he said. For him, the body he had burned was nothing more than a meaningless lump.
This is the Central African Republic (CAR). Unending acts of violence have been going on since December last. The UN estimates that more than 1,000 people were killed in December alone and almost a quarter of the population has now been displaced due to the conflict. The Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui has seen its Muslim population drop from 130,000 to under 1,000 over the past few months. Out of the capital’s 36 mosques, just eight are left and out of the 375 mosques across the country, 118 have been destroyed.
Like almost all other African countries, five military coups have taken place in a short period of time in the CAR, which became independent in 1960. The unpleasant tradition of military coups in backward countries has pervaded the countries of Africa, which has, with a few exceptions, almost never known peace.
The less than peaceable attitude of CAR’s President François Boziz, a Christian, toward Muslims led to an uprising last year that saw Michel Djotodia, assuming power. He became the first Muslim head of state in the history of the CAR. Although the first guarantee given by the new administration concerned unity and brotherhood between followers of different faiths, the winds of separation had already begun blowing between Muslims and Christians. After having lived for years with no problems, this was the first time that Muslims and Christians found themselves in such a conflict. As of September 2013 anti-Balaka forces’ attacks against Muslims increased and so did international pressure. In January 2014, Djotodia resigned after a tragic nine-month rule.
Wherever there is conflict, we need to look for radical or materialist ideas or else political or material advantage. The CAR is the world’s No.1 diamond exporter. It is the mother lode of gold, uranium, platinum and cobalt.
As with other African countries, the administration and sale of these natural resources is in the hands of the former colonialists; the former colonial powers are now deeply uneasy at the presence of China, Russia and the USA, all of whom have turned their attention to Africa since 2000. There are always wretched people in regions where conflicts of interest between great powers take place: Let us remember that the main cause of the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is a pipeline extending to China.
The French Senate, which thought that colonialist interests were threatened following the Mali operation last year, prepared a report titled “Africa is our future.” That report described the reason for the Mali operation as the improvement of relations in the African continent, where the influence of China and the USA is growing by the day. The report, therefore, stressed the importance of France maintaining its military power in the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Gabon, Chad, the CAR, Somalia and Niger.
On the basis of that report, the reason for the current French presence in the CAR may be interpreted as simply maintaining its military force and hegemony; indeed, there is no dearth of people blaming France for the ongoing slaughter in the region. But is France really following a mistaken policy in its former colonies? The reference to “the protection of military power” in the report is a clear statement of error in French policy. Intellectual, sectarian, racial or religious conflicts are essentially ideological conflicts; they can never be resolved through “military power.” That is why European and US investment in military power has always failed.
The French people are fine and worthy; they live by modern European culture, quality and nobility. The main problem of the French is their materialist mindset, which they also try to impose on their former colonies. This false way of thinking, based on the principle of “the strong eliminating the weak,” has unknowingly prepared the groundwork for fascist ideas and this has always damaged Africa.
Yet France could adopt a policy that would lead to great reforms and brotherhood in Africa. It could defeat ideological conflict with ideological education. France must realize that human beings progress through reconciliation, not conflict. It could adopt a policy that enriches and develops the people there while enriching itself; those rich lands are certainly enough for all.
As the CAR modernizes, attaches importance to love and brotherhood and achieves a higher level of prosperity, it will become a friend of France with strong cultural and economic ties. When that happens, France will be there with its culture, industry, art and science. Such a leap forward will bring greater beauty and well-being to France. It is in France’s interests.
It must not be forgotten that happy societies that enjoy modern ways of thinking and prosperity do not rebel and become angry. Instead of spending money on arms for African countries where it retains a military presence, France should engage in ideological investment to build peace and develop them. It must stress religious unity, not division. Otherwise religious conflicts in Africa, and the world’s perception of France as a “wicked colonialist,” will not change. This step is vital if there is to be an end to conflict in Africa and it must be taken at once.
It looks like the situation may soon be resolved; the UN Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution soon to deploy 12,000 soldiers in the CAR, thereby taking over from the 2,000 French and 6,000 African Union soldiers already present in the country. However, it is imperative that this new peace force is not left under the control of the current French force, as France is already the object of deep suspicions. It is good to see that troops from Muslim countries are also being incorporated into the UN force, as the involvement of Muslim troops would clearly help ease the tension. Otherwise, every day wasted may cost thousands of lives.
n The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.
He tweets @harun_yahya