Has the crisis in the Central African Republican been forgotten?

The modern history of the Central African Republic in the years following its independence from France in 1960 has been continuously dogged by violence, destruction of infrastructure and political instability. The violence within the CAR between the Christian anti-Balaka militia and the Muslim Seleka Rebels over control of the CAR’s rich natural resources has notable religious and political overturns and in 2014 the Huffington Post concluded that the conflict in the CAR has been continuously proliferated by a lack of attention and interest from mainstream western media, resulting in a slowing of effective aid efforts from regional and international organisations.  The conflict had at that time resulted in the internal displacement of roughly 1 million individuals, with hundreds of thousands reported to have sought migration to neighboring countries, culminating in around 2.2 million natives urgently requiring humanitarian aid.

Three years on and the Norwegian Refugee Council have placed the crisis in the CAR as the world’s foremost neglected displacement crisis, ahead of more modern crises such as Ukraine, South Sudan and Yemen, due to the insufficient economic and international support being given to meet the needs of the conflicts victims. The NRC’s conclusion is reflective of a wider disinterest in the CAR with online articles mentioning the state declining from 1,295 in September 2013 to 494 in February 2014.  General Secretary of the NRC Jan Egeland considers the CAR to be outside the geopolitical interests of western nations and it is therefore unsurprising that the United Nations received only 38% of the requested aid needed to combat the humanitarian crisis in the nation.

In this sense are we then left in a world where the level and quality of the international response to humanitarian crises is entirely dependent on national interest rather than the needs of victims. Arguably the unwillingness to intervene from western nations is primarily resultant of the lasting repercussions of two international crises which preceded the outbreak of violence in the CAR. These were the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which both negatively impacted the mindset of western nations in differing ways. The disastrous attempts of the UN to prevent mass genocide in Rwanda as well as the widespread condemnation of America’s invasion in Iraq has made western states hesitant to intervene in global crises in case of escalating the conflict or being interpreted to be engaging in resolving the crisis for the sole purpose of furthering their own political and economic interests.

Consequently, in the current global paradigm the only motivation for involvement in global crises is seemingly proximity to both the start point of the violence and to any potential spill over through terrorism and lone-wolf attacks. Although this does not legitimize the absence of interest in resolving the conflict in the CAR, it does give an indication of the approach to humanitarian aid undertaken by western states, therefore one must question whether conflicts such as the CAR may ever receive the level of western aid and attention needed.

By Jonathan Evans