Dire situation


United Nations officials describe the situation in the Central African Republic as “complete chaos.” They call for decisive international intervention. Yet such action would appear to have limited prospects for success, at best.

Events in the C.A.R. are deteriorating. The central government has lost the ability to maintain law and order. Atrocities, including religious, ethnic, and gender-based violence, are spreading.

Seleka, a Muslim-based movement, overthrew the previous government last March in the predominantly Christian country. But the movement lacks discipline, and self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia lacks authority.

France has 400 troops securing the airport in the nation’s capital, and is thinking of sending another 1,000 soldiers. France intervened elsewhere in Africa with thousands of troops when northern Mali risked falling under the control of hostile Islamic and Tuareg forces. But France has remained reticent about involvement in the C.A.R.

The Central African Republic, in the center of Africa, borders six other African nations. There was hope that those neighbors would feel a responsibility to end the suffering in the C.A.R. and prevent its chaos from spreading through the introduction of an African Union peacekeeping force. Yet none of these countries is strong in its own right; as a group they may not be in a position to tackle the C.A.R.’s growing dilemma.

The Central African Republic has the capacity to be a reasonably functioning country. It has diamonds for cash. But it has had consistently weak or even evil government, including the notorious Emperor Bokassa I at one point.

The country may not be of particular interest to any outside power. Yet its 4.5 million people do not deserve to endure the suffering inflicted on them 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.