Potential Hot Spots: Another Darfur in the Central African Republic

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: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

March 18, 2007: The UN says that at least 50,000 Central African Republic ( CAR) citizens are now in refugee camps in Chad. Another 150,000 to 170,000 had been forced to leave their homes in the CAR's northern region. This "low-grade" war began in late 2005, but began to get worse in late 2006. The refugees report they are harassed and robbed by bandit groups called "zaraginas." Reports from the CAR also use the French term "coupeurs du route," or "road cutters," meaning bandit ambushers or highwaymen. There is also occasional trouble from CAR government security forces, who are lsupposed to be looking for the bandits. A common tactic is to kidnap a family member and then wait until the family can pay a ransom. The bandits prefer cash but will take cattle (and cattle are a gauge of wealth in the region). Such anarchy and banditry is the bane of every sub-Saharan African country. The CAR's government controls the capital and some of the areas in the south. The northern region is controlled, or, rather, terrorized, by several groups that are anti-government. The gangs (sometimes calling themselves rebels) can carve out safe areas by terrorizing local villages. French military advisers want to improve the CAR military's mobility by adding light armored vehicles and more light four-wheel drive vehicles. However, most roads in the CAR are few and poorly maintained. CAR troops are poorly trained, led and disciplined. The prospects for peace in CAR are dim, and none of the rebel groups seems capable to taking over, or bringing peace.

 

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