Dire situation: Central African Republic slips into chaos

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United Nations officials say the situation in the Central African Republic is “complete chaos” and are calling for decisive international intervention.

Yet it is difficult to see how such action can occur. The French have 400 troops securing the airport in the capital, Bangui, and may send another 1,000. France intervened with thousands of troops in Northern Mali earlier this year, but has remained reticent about involvement in the C.A.R.

The C.A.R. has borders with six nations, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Sudan, giving rise to hope that the neighbors would feel some responsibility to end the suffering and introduce an African Union peacekeeping force. Yet none of these countries is particularly strong in its own right and as a group they may not be able to tackle the C.A.R.’s dilemma.

In the meantime, events continue to deteriorate. The C.A.R. government has lost the ability to maintain law and order. Atrocities, including religious, ethnic and gender-based violence, are common and spreading. Seleka, a Muslim-based movement that overthrew the government and took power in the predominantly Christian country, lacks discipline, and the self-proclaimed president, Michel Djotodia, lacks authority.

The C.A.R. has the capacity to be a reasonably functioning country. It has water and plenty of land for commercial and food agriculture. It has diamonds for cash. But it has had consistently weak or sometimes even evil government.

Even if the C.A.R. is not of particular interest to any outside power, its 4.5 million people do not deserve to endure the suffering there now, unnoticed and unaided. The introduction of a rapid intervention force drawn from U.N. troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo might provide immediate respite while a larger U.N. peacekeeping force is mounted to restore order.

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