Human rights activists expect a mammoth task: The Muslim exodus impedes reconciliation

STP welcomes Steinmeier's appeal for a European intervention in the Central African Republic

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) welcomes an appeal by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, asking the countries of the EU to assist France in the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic. "However, the international peacekeepers will be facing a mammoth task," warns the human rights organization. "The country is in the midst of a civil war and there is a danger of mass killings. It will not be enough to send a few dozen soldiers to try and restore peace in a country that is one and a half times as large as France," said the STP's Africa-expert, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Sunday. "If Europe's support is to be more than just symbolic, the European states must send at least 1600 more soldiers." Also, there must be additional economic and political initiatives to stabilize the Central African Republic.

"Without reconciliation, there will be no sustainable peace between the Christians and the Muslims," said Delius. "But reconciliation cannot be enforced. The people's economic situation must be improved to give them new perspectives in life." Efforts towards reconciliation are also impeded by the exodus of more than 30,000 Muslims from Chad, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and other African states who left the country during the last few weeks – for fear of reprisals by the Christians. Many of the Muslim refugees were very important for the economy of the Central African Republic. "Because of their forced exodus, the country's economy will be thrown back about 15 to 20 years – leading to a further impoverishment."

Last Friday, 23 Muslims were killed in a hand grenade attack on a refugee trek near the border to Cameroon. More than 50 people were injured. After being attacked by followers of a Christian militia group, several hundred Muslim Peul-nomads sought protection in a church in Boali, a town located 90 kilometers to the north-west of Bangui.

Tomorrow, on Monday, the EU foreign ministers will discuss possible measures of support for the French military intervention. At the moment, the 1600 French soldiers and the 4400 African MISCA peacekeeping soldiers are located in and around the capital city of Bangui. A deployment of troops from Europe could help them to focus on other parts of the country except from Bangui, allowing them to disarm the militias and to restore constitutional order.