The Central African Republic is in conflict with itself. Since 2012, tensions between Muslims and Christians have spawned a vicious spiral of bloodshed and terror, splintering the nation at the seams. A recent U.N. report found both sides of the conflict, guilty of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, rape, summary executions and even crimes against children. Over a quarter of the country’s 4.25 million citizens has been displaced by the fighting raging within their borders, driven from their homes as the religious militias ransack and retaliate.

 

The country’s suffering is agonizing, made all the more so by the intractability of the conflict’s catalysts and the animosity between peacekeepers. On a continent long synonymous with horrors perpetrated in the name of religion and ethnicity, the conflict in the Central African Republic is beginning to take on a new level of urgency.

 

In an attempt to assert some pale semblance of control following a recent spate of violence in the capital Bangui, the CAR government has banned the use of texting indefinitely. Citing the role of text messages in the fomenting of protests and demonstrations – most of which quickly turned violent – the government instructed all four mobile carriers covering the country to suspend all SMS services on June 6. Attempts at messaging were met with a French missive, translated: “SMS not allowed.”

 

The action has been harshly criticized by human rights activists, who view the messaging ban as a constriction of freedom of thought and opinion. The troubled African nation is the latest country to crack down on social media services, following Turkey’s Twitter ban in March and widespread Internet censorship in countries affected by the Arab Spring.

 

The SMS ban is an ill-conceived measure that will likely do little to end the country’s real problems. With trust in the interim government at an appallingly low ebb and U.N. security forces not due in country until September, the battered citizens of the Central African Republic will be forced to dig in, dodging the bullets of revenge-crazed militias and skirting the piles of severed limbs dotting Bangui’s streets. This is tragedy writ large, with desperate human costs extracted daily under the Republic’s boiling skies. Decided action by the international community is needed, and soon.

 

What are your thoughts on the government of CAR suspending SMS access for its residents? Will the ongoing human carnage in CAR be averted or worsen amid this SMS ban?  Tweet me @aa_murph or comment below.