13 December 2013

Central African Republic: Ban Warning for Militia As Violence Continues in Central African Republic

Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch
The Imam Ishmail Nafi at the displaced persons camp in the Ecole Liberte in Bossangoa praying for those killed the previous day during the anti-balaka attack on the town. Eleven people were killed outside his house while seeking safety from the attackers.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned those responsible for atrocities in the Central African Republic will be held to account. His words came a day after 27 people died in fighting between militias.

Clashes between rival Muslim and Christian rebels have continued despite the presence of 1,600 French troops in support of African United Nations peacekeepers.

The violence has largely abated in the capital Bangui, but fighting has now spread and 27 Muslims were slaughtered in the western village of Bohong on Thursday.

On Friday, Ban painted a grim picture of the situation in the Central African Republic and talked tough of those responsible for the fear and brutality.

"Too many people are scared and the country is on the brink of ruin ... I appeal to everyone to follow the path of peace. The bloodshed must stop," Ban said in a radio address.

"I have a clear message to all who would commit atrocities and crimes against humanity. The world is watching. You will be held to account," he added.

Backed by a helicopter, French troops engaged in fire with suspected rebels in Bangui on Friday, with around a dozen machete-wielding Muslim men facing off against Christian youths.

The clashes were reportedly sparked by the killing of a Christian taxi driver by mostly former Muslim rebels overnight.

France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Bangui on Friday to meet with troops, urging them to end the "spiral of atrocities and sectarian violence that is under way."

"One of your first tasks is to disarm the militias, while ensuring that civilian populations, Muslims as well as Christians, do not become targets of blind reprisals," he said, according to remarks carried on French television.

Two French soldiers have died in since the former colonial power upped its troop numbers last Saturday.

Fighting leads to dead, displaced

The Central African Republic has been wracked with violence since former president Francois Bozize was overthrown in March. Seleka rebels replaced Bozize with Michel Djotodia, making him the first Muslim president of the largely Christian nation.

Djotodia is accused of failing to keep his predominantly Muslim militia in check, allowing them to prey upon the Christian population. Rival militia consequently sprang up in opposition.

UN estimations of those left dead by the fighting in the nation reach around 600, while more than 100,000 are said to be displaced from Bangui alone. Tens of thousands are taking refuge at the capital's airport, where French troops are stationed.

The UN has worn criticism for failing to react quickly enough to plight of those in need: "Repeated evaluations in the face of glaring needs and numerous coordination meetings have not led to any concrete action around the main hotspots," a statement from charity group Doctors Without Borders said.

UNICEF have responded, announcing on Friday it had flown in tons of supplies, including blankets, jerry cans and medicine.

- Reuters, AFP, AP

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