Out of the Pan and Into the Fire: Coup d’etat in the Central African Republic and Looming Crisis for Civilians

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In December last year, five rebel groups from Northern CAR came together to form the über-rebel group Seleka (meaning “the alliance” in Sango, the national language of CAR) and began rapidly taking over towns in north and central CAR (Photo Credit: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images).

In December last year, five rebel groups from Northern CAR came together to form the über-rebel group Seleka (meaning “the alliance” in Sango, the national language of CAR) and began rapidly taking over towns in north and central CAR (Photo Credit: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images).

By Natalia Taylor Bowdoin, AIUSA’s Central African Republic (CAR) Country Specialist

While the world recently celebrated when Bosco Ntaganda turned himself into the U.S. Embassy in Kigali and asked to be delivered to the International Criminal Court, a precarious human rights and humanitarian tragedy was unfolding in another little known corner of Central Africa, the Central African Republic (CAR). On Sunday,  the rebel group, Seleka, succeeded in toppling the CAR government, sending the president, François Bozizé, into exile and the citizens of the country into crisis yet again.

CAR watchers were hardly surprised by this turn of events. Bozizé himself came to power through a coup in March 2003, ousting then-president Ange-Félix Patassé with the help of his Chadian friends. Shortly after coming to power however, many of his Chadian helpers became disgruntled. They and former supporters of Patassé split from the government, and along with other disparate elements in northern CAR, began to take to arms and form rebel groups. These rebels groups alternated between terrorizing, harassing and occasionally offering protection to local populations in exchange for loyalty and at great cost. The majority of the rebel groups agreed to come to peace talks in 2007 and 2008 with the Bozizé government and together they ironed out a path forward. Unfortunately, that path didn’t hold for long.

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A Turkish Spring? Freedom To Decide, Freedom To Remember

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Spring is a time for optimism and so, despite all the troubling news coming out of Turkey, let me call attention to some positive signs.

The week started badly, when the Turkish Higher Election Board declared that a number of mostly Kurdish candidates for parliament, including Leyla Zana and other former prisoners of conscience, had been disqualified from running.   The decision led to massive protests in Istanbul, Van, Diyarbakir, and elsewhere. In the wake of these protests, however, the Higher Election Board has reversed itself and most, if not all, of the candidates, including Ms. Zana, will be able to run for office.

The coming week promises an event which holds reason for optimism of another sort: on Monday, April 24th a number of Turkish NGOs, will be holding a march to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and call attention to continued issues of bigotry in Turkey. This brave action is a part of a larger effort to deal forthrightly with Turkey’s past.  For example, in ways that were unimaginable only ten years ago, there are now open discussions of the Turkey’s open warfare against the Kurds of Dersim in 1937 – 38, which left tens of thousands killed and uprooted many thousands more.  What is particularly remarkable about these discussions, which have gone on for decades in intellectual circles is that they are now entering into the popular consciousness: as one taboo falters, others are weakened.

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The Media Hype May Be Over, But There Is Still A Crisis In Honduras

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Amnesty International issued a report today about the ongoing crisis in Honduras following the coup d’etat which took place June 28. Many press outlets have covered the report and accompanying press release which comes at a crucial time as the crisis in Honduras must be kept in the attention of the mainstream media and general public.

AI’s main concerns with the crisis as cited in the report are:

Two of the ten students who took part in the peaceful march on 30 July 2009. The imprint of the police batons is clearly visible on both students. Amnesty International

Two of the ten students who took part in the peaceful march on 30 July 2009. The imprint of the police batons is clearly visible on both students. Amnesty International

  • Excessive use of force
  • Gender-based violence
  • Use of military in civilian law enforcement
  • Freedom of expression
  • Curfew measures
  • Safety of human rights defenders

I’ll let the words of Hondurans speak for themselves to end this post, as their words are much more powerful than mine:

“We were demonstrating peacefully. Suddenly, the
police came towards us, and I started running. They
grabbed me and shouted “why do you (all) support
Zelaya’s government? Whether it’s by choice or by
force, you have to be with this government”. They
beat me. I have not yet been informed as to why I
am here detained.”

[“Fernando”, 52 year-old teacher, at a police station in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 30 July 2009]