The violence in the Central African Republic has neighboring countries concerned as fierce fighting and a weak government threaten to propel the humanitarian crisis beyond the country’s borders. John Campbell, CFR’s Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, highlights three things to know about the crisis and what is needed for peace.
Not a Religious Conflict: The struggle for power in Bangui between Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia is rooted more in politics than religious differences, Campbell argues. Although fighters have used religious rhetoric, "religious leaders on both sides of the conflict have urged the population not to use religion as an excuse for violence," Campbell says.
Risk of Spillover: Porous national boundaries and a weak government could result in the crisis spilling over the border, threatening regional stability, Campbell warns. "The Economic Community of Central African States has also taken a lead role in resolving the crisis so that violence does not spread to their own countries."
Strong Interim Government Needed: Peace will be difficult to achieve until a neutral transitional administration is in power, Campbell argues. Such a government has proven successful in places like Kosovo and Namibia, and would be necessary to revitalize a nation "that has few resources, little or no infrastructure, a population suffering from extended overexposure to brutality, and a sense of national unity that is in tatters."