8 December 2013

Central African Republic: Unfolding Tragedy in the Central African Republic

Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch
An injured woman is rushed to the hospital.

press release

Since overthrowing the government in March, Seleka forces, an alliance of predominantly Muslim armed groups, have ruled through the gun and with terror, attacking and burning down Christian villages, killing and wounding untold numbers of people.

Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in fear, creating a humanitarian crisis.

Future atrocities are in the making. On Friday morning, after anti-balaka militias had chased his forces from much of Bossangoa, Seleka commander Colonel Saleh took his regrouped fighters to the outskirts of the Catholic Church camp that housed some 35,000 displaced Christians.

His men then fired several rocket-propelled grenades into the crowded camp, and repeatedly threatened to attack it unless the anti-balaka left Bossangoa. Hoping to avoid a massacre, the African peacekeepers negotiated an end to the crisis and got the anti-balaka to stand down, knowing that Colonel Saleh would have no second thoughts about launching a full-out attack on 35,000 civilians.

With between 400 to 500 dead in similarly brutal clashes and massacres since Wednesday in Bangui, where many of the corpses still laying uncollected in the streets, little doubt remains that the Central African Republic stands on the precipice of ever-widening sectarian bloodshed.

France knows how critical the situation has become, sending hundreds of additional French troops to the country to provide civilian protection, but it is still struggling to find support for a broader international stabilization force for the country under United Nations command.

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