Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: CAR Crisis Can Turn Into Religious War and Spill Over Borders, UN Warns

Photo: UNHCR
Nigerian refugees (file photo).

Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, has warned that the strife in the Central African Republic (CAR) could turn into religious war and spill over the country's borders.

Briefing the UN Security Council on Monday in New York, Feltman also warned that the crisis could further destabilise the whole region.

CAR was thrown into turmoil when Seleka rebels launched attacks a year ago and forced President Francois Bozize to flee in March.

"Killings in Bangui and in the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation.

"Access to residential neighbourhoods in Bangui is controlled either by 'anti-Christian' or 'anti-Muslim' checkpoints, manned by armed civilians.

"Similarly, localities outside Bangui like Bossangoa, Bouar, Bozoum and Paoua, among others, witness atrocities on a daily basis, including direct clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities.

"The violence and the atrocities in the CAR must stop. Those in positions of authority or influence must do more to end violence and halt grave violations against civilians, including children.

"Attacks against humanitarian personnel, and the use of civilian spaces such as schools and hospitals for military purposes must also end," Feltman added.

He, however, urged all parties to the conflict of their responsibilities under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law to ensure that all those responsible for violations were held accountable.

The UN official lamented the transitional authorities' inability to curb the widespread Seleka human rights abuses and violations against Christians over the past year.

He said this had contributed to the gradual transformation of local self-defence groups.

"As a result of its predominantly Muslim composition, Seleka abuses against the Christian populations in the CAR were quickly interpreted as a religious conflict pitting Muslims against Christians.

"On the other hand, the frustration of Muslim communities in the CAR is the result of years of marginalisation by the successive governments since the country's independence over 50 years ago.

"For instance, while the Muslim community represents an estimated 20 per cent of the total population of the CAR, no Muslim holidays are observed officially by the country," the UN Under Secretary-General said.

"Those displaced urgently need protection and shelter, as well as access to water, healthcare, food, basic supplies, and sanitation and hygiene services," he added.(NAN)

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