Congressman expresses worry that little’s being done to stop violence in Central Africa Republic


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Weeks after the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, a State Department official on Thursday declined to label violence currently sweeping the Central African Republic “genocide” at a congressional hearing, where it was clear some members felt the United States should take more aggressive action to stanch the bloodshed.

“Do we simply pay lip service to the phrase ‘never again,’ or are we going to act to prevent a repeat of such mass atrocities from occurring?” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J, who chairs the House subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations, which called Thursday’s hearing.

“I don’t think it matters what word we use,” said State Department Bureau of African Affairs officer Robert Jackson in response to a question about whether the indiscriminate slaughter of Muslims and Christians in the Central African Republic was genocide.

More than 2,000 people have been killed and perhaps as many as 1 million forced from their homes in months of bloodshed since Muslim rebels rejected the coalition government they were part of, captured the capital, Bangui, and ousted the country’s leader. Since then, Muslim and Christian militias have preyed on one another’s neighborhoods.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission of nearly 12,000 soldiers and police, approved by the Security Council in mid-April, will be deployed Sept. 15, supplanting an African Union force of 5,600 that was deployed in December. The U.S. is not expected to contribute any manpower but has pledged $247 million for humanitarian assistance.

Anne Richard, the State Department’s assistant secretary for refugee affairs, said “cash-flow problems” had limited European countries’ ability to contribute to the effort. “I am proud our country is doing so much,” Richard said. “This system only works when other countries join us.”

Human rights groups and activists argue that the international community has ignored atrocities in the Central African Republic. A U.N. spokesman, Steve Taravella, told McClatchy that the lack of global attention to events in Central Africa was extremely concerning.

Members of the subcommittee shared those frustrations. Smith said the world showed a “lack of a sense of urgency” despite “butchery” evident in the country.

“Delay is denial for those being hurt and killed,” Smith said, referring to the late summer schedule for the arrival of the peacekeepers.


Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category