Op-eds

Playing the Genocide Card: NYT Op-Ed by WPF's Alex de Waal

The New York Times

Alex de Waal

When France decided to send soldiers to the Central African Republic on Nov. 26, it did the right thing for the wrong reason.

France, the United Nations and the African Union dispatched some 4,000 troops soon after the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, warned that the C.A.R. was “on the verge of genocide.” Yet the country doesn’t face genocide; it is experiencing state collapse and limited intercommunal killings after a military takeover by a coalition of undisciplined militiamen known as Seleka.

Last week, flying home from the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, President François Hollande of France stopped in Bangui, C.A.R.’s capital, to visit the newly deployed French peacekeepers. The stopover also served as an implicit act of contrition for events in April 1994, when world leaders congratulated Mr. Mandela for presiding over the peaceful end to apartheid, even as they were pulling their peacekeepers out of Rwanda. Close to one million people died in the genocide that unfolded over the following months.

Nineteen years later, French and African soldiers have fanned out across Bangui and other towns largely unopposed, losing just two soldiers so far. Over the last decade the C.A.R. had become a battleground for sundry marauders, freebooters and proxy forces, especially from Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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