What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Mr. Akuetteh, your perspective in general. Why have we reached this point? It’s as if history continues to repeat itself and we don’t learn a whole lot about it. Why again are we seeing this take place in CAR?
Akuetteh: I think that’s a great question. Thanks for having me on the program. I think the short answer is that the country, this particular country we’re talking about, the Central African Republic, it really has been in shambles even before the Seleka coup in March of last year.
Then things even became worse so that right now the country is more or less a failed state. Even the president admits it. They don’t have police, that they control wealth, that they have had these soldiers to talk about. They have had trouble controlling just Bangui, the capital city.
So, for the Central African Republic, I think it is a country that is very weakened. It doesn’t have the structures of state.
The larger point about the international community not acting with vigor to take care of problems affecting either Africans or Muslims, I sympathize with the larger point because we see it in many places.
But in particular in the Central African Republic, I think it’s different and I really sometimes take issue with the idea. For instance, we heard a quote, I don’t know by who but we heard a voice saying that the African troops and the French troops there are actually making things worse. I take strong exception to that because if they were not there, a lot more people will be killed. They are trying to control the situation. They are not doing a perfect job. They need money. They need more troops. The UN needs to move faster. But I think we have to avoid exaggerating, sitting far away from the scene and using careless words that will get people killed there.
Press TV: You said it’s good that these troops are there because it would have been a much worse situation, and now we know that it has been proved to increase the number of international troops on the ground there in the CAR, but we’re talking about six months that it will take to get troops in there. With the situation being so dire at this point in time, why do you think that it will take six months before getting extra troops on the ground?
Akuetteh: I really have to commend you on that question because that also concerns me.
Basically, the Central African Republic is on fire and it should not take six months to send the fire brigade. Moreover, you know one fact that I did disagree with in the setup or analysis was that it said the crisis started in December. No, the crisis started even a year before the Seleka took over.
Now what is happening is that Mr. [Michel] Djotodia, who was forced out by Chad, his own ally, was because he allowed the Seleka militia to go out and brutalize the ordinary population. What we are seeing is revenge attacks. I don’t approve of it, but we have to understand how it started.
Now to the question of why it is taking so long. Let me repeat I agree with you, it should be done more quickly. The UN always takes its time. It happened in Mali.
You know, right now they are not doing much next door in South Sudan. I think it should be speeded up.
If I might offer a recommendation, I think that particularly, if I don’t like the population being divided into, you know, labeled by their religious affiliation and then killed. But if we are going to use religion, I think countries in the UN should all push the United Nations, especially Muslim countries that have a lot of clout and have a lot of money, they need to push the United Nations and say six months is too long.
So, I agree with you, it shouldn’t take that long. Countries in the UN should force for it to be speeded up because in six months too many people would have been killed or ethnically cleansed.
Press TV: You were basically shaking your head. You’re disagreeing with what our guest said in Birmingham.
Akuetteh: Yes, on two points. You know, the audio is not great so I’m not sure if I got all his points correct, so if I miss it please forgive me. But on the revenge attack point, I do agree that the anti-Balaka are going after Muslims. I think it is wrong. They are not going after just fighters. Anybody they think is a Muslim – I’m even sure that there is mistaken identity because a lot of Central African Republics, the way citizens are dressed, you can’t tell. Some you can; others you can’t by their dress. So my point is, yes, Muslims are being targeted. I’ve said it over and over that that is wrong and it shouldn’t be done.
But I am saying the motivation of anti-Balaka – before the Seleka came in there was no anti-Balaka. They are reacting to what the Seleka did. The Seleka were identified as Muslims. That may be mistaken, but we cannot deny that the Seleka committed atrocities, and a lot of militias are formed saying that we have to pay back. And in doing that, they are targeting Muslims who have nothing to do with Seleka. That is my point.
The other reason I was shaking my head is, listen, I have written a lot about the bad behavior of France all over Africa. But I think it is conspiracy theory not to have any France and simply say that if France is in a country then it is there simply for their resources. In Mali, France actually stopped the jihadists from destroying the country.
I’m saying we should take it case by case. We should have logic and we should have facts. I am not convinced that France has gone into the Central African Republic purely because of their resources. They were asked. In fact, they were begged.
When the Seleka came in, President [François] Bozizé begged them to come in and stop the Seleka so that regime change was not done violently, and France refused.
So, there are Central African Republic citizens who say that France actually supported the Seleka to overthrow the government. I’m saying we should get away from conspiracy theories that don’t have any facts.
Press TV: Your take, right now what needs to be done in your perspective in order to restore security in CAR?
Akuetteh: I think, as I mentioned, powerful countries and influential groups in the UN should do what you suggested, which I agree with by your question, that six months is too slow. It takes too long, that it needs to be speeded up.
As I sit here as an African, I also wish that the African Union would play a stronger role because I want African countries and the African Union to get to the point where we don’t go begging France or the United States or the United Nations to come and protect our citizens. We need strong states in Africa that are well run democratically, that will protect their citizens.
There is a short term thing which is, let’s get the UN troops there, behaving properly, and get them in quickly. But in the longer term, the African countries and the African Union need to get their act together.