Voice of America (Washington, DC)

5 December 2013

Central African Republic: Deadly Violence Erupts in Capital

Photo: Afrika Force
Bangui Shopping District in CAR

Heavy fighting is reported in the capital of the Central African Republic, as the U.N. prepares to authorize deployment of more troops to the troubled country.

The initial accounts from Bangui said at least several people were killed Thursday in clashes in three parts of the city, including the Boy Rabe neighborhood.

Interim CAR president Michel Djotodia's spokesman accused supporters of former president Francois Bozize of launching attacks.

Wilfred Koyamba, a student in the city, said people fear for their safety and wonder when help will arrive.

"The French army told us three or four days ago that they are on the border and waiting for the green light to come in, but up to now we haven't seen them, and that's what's bothering us, particularly given this situation now, everybody's afraid," said Koyamba.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution allowing African countries and France to send more troops to the CAR.

The resolution would authorize the African Union-led force to restore security and for French troops to "take all necessary measures" to support them.

France has pledged to increase its presence in the country to about 1,000 troops, while the AU-led force is due to expand to 3,600 soldiers this month.

In an interview with VOA, deputy AU chairman Erastus Mwencha said his hope is that CAR's unrest can be contained as much as possible until the African forces arrive.

"It is very clear that the country is on the precipice of a major crisis," said Mwencha. "Many communities are fighting each other and it is extremely worrisome. And, the sooner that we can bring in a stabilization force so that Central Africa [Republic] can go back and have elections and bring in a government that help the country maintain law and order, the better."

The United Nations measure also calls for U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to recommend within three months whether to form a U.N. peacekeeping force, which he has said could involve up to 9,000 troops.

It also includes an arms embargo, and expresses concern about the rise in sectarian violence and the "total breakdown in law and order."

The rebel alliance known as Seleka overthrew president Bozize in March, and a weak interim government has been unable to exert control over the fighters.

The mostly Muslim rebels have since been blamed for a surge in murder, rape, robbery and auto theft. Mostly Christian defense groups known as "anti-balaka" have sprung up in response.

The U.N. said Wednesday gunmen killed at least 12 civilians northwest of Bangui in an attack they said appeared to be the work of Christian militiamen targeting mostly Muslim (Peul) herders.

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