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Africa in turmoil, Africans must speak out

THERE is something big going on in the centre of Africa. A bad wolf has invaded our huge continent.

In 2013, muslims overthrew the government in the Central African Republic and since then life has been hell for citizens and visitors.

And a lot of bad things happening there just fly below the radar. Who is interested in the backwaters or deserts of Africa? Occasionally something crops up on international media.

In October 2014, more than 30 people killed and scores wounded in Dekoa town in fighting between Muslim Seleka group and Christian anti-Balaka (BBC); 30 plus deaths and many injuries around Bangassou in May 2017 (African News.com); six aid workers killed March 2018 (France24); UN peacekeepers killed at least 21 persons during an operation (April 2018, Al-Jazeera); Rusian journos killed at a roadblock in CAR (Deutsche Welle, August 2018) to choose just a few.

There are many instances of such fighting and killings in the landlocked nation between 2015 and now. Muslims and Christians killing each other and in between foreign soldiers training and arming CAR citizens.

It has become the CAR civil war, complete with UN peacekeepers.

Some 600,000 people displaced internally and an estimated 500,000 have fled to neighbouring countries like Cameroon, DRC and Chad.

Now some reports of mercenaries (muslims perhaps) from that land being trained and sent to fight in Syria. In the last five years, the CAR has had more presidents that Tanzania has had in the last five decades, but who is counting? Silence is golden.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Cameroon, a similar situation has been emerging. Here, not Muslim and Christian militias like in the CAR, but it is francophone and anglophone groups/soldiers that have been fighting and civilians are caught in the middle.

I saw this chilling video of soldiers summarily executing two moms with their babies still strapped on their backs.

English and French are languages that came by ship with the former colonial masters and Cameroonians are fighting over that kind of identity? Africa is in trouble.

How many Cameroonians killed and injured? How many villages burned down? Thousands of civilians have fled, some to neighbouring countries like Nigeria.

At independence in 1960, English speakers were given the choice to join Nigeria or remain in Cameroon. They chose the latter and one cannot help but wonder if some regret that choice.

Francophone Cameroonians concentrated in the southwest of the country feel marginalised in the reign of longterm president Paul Biya. Some want a separate homeland and others autonomy in a federated state.

However, Africa seems silent on what is going on in Cameroon. Big and powerful Nigeria has been fighting a difficult war with Boko Haram with their centre in Bono state since 2003.

The islamist group has attacked and killed many civilians, army and even police personnel. They have also kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls and children. In turn hundreds and perhaps thousands of its members have died in military operations.

They have also targeted Christians thus turning their original war against western education into a religious war. The activities of the Boko Haram have spilled over into Chad and Cameroon.

With the exception of Nigeria and its neighbours, few African countries have gone out on a limb to talk about the Boko Haram issue. It is their problem, not us. They are capable of fixing it.

Since 2009 when Boko Haram began an armed campaign, more than 20,000 people have been killed and over two million have fled their homes (Al-Jazeera.com).

The response of Nigeria and its friends and neighbours has been military force. The Boko Haram conflict is a tragedy for Nigeria and Africa.

But the root of the conflicts in what I can call the equatorial zone of Africa is most likely economic marginalisation, that is seen as targeting certain groups be they muslim, christian, francophone or other lingua franca.

It was most obviously the case with war between south and north Sudan, and the fall out between Ethiopia and Eritrea both of which lasted for over 20 years.

Without addressing the underlying poverty and economic empowerment issues, the Sudanese will continue fighting amongst themselves.

The recently concluded rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia offers a glimmer of hope on what is possible in resolving conflicts in Africa, given the political will and vision.

But sectarian and ethnic related conflicts that are fueling the exodus of Africans to Asia, Europe and America. Africans must speak out strongly against all the old and new conflicts.

Speak out against specific instances of ethnic and religious marginalisation. Against bad governance. The thing is, when your neighbour’s house is on fire, yours may catch fire too from flying sparks.

Whatever happened to the Africa Peer Review mechanism? Cameroon and CAR must not turn into genocides before the world acts decisively.

tnaleo@hotmail.com; mobile:0713246136

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Author: Tony Zakaria

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