Voice of America (Washington, DC)

6 February 2014

Central African Republic: UN Urges CAR to Probe Sectarian Attack

Photo: Pierre Holtz/Unicef
Insecurity remains a major concern (file photo).

The U.N. envoy to the Central African Republic has condemned the killing of a suspected rebel in a vicious mob attack, and urged the government to make an "example" of those responsible.

In a Thursday news conference, Babacar Gaye said the attack shows the CAR urgently needs a functioning judicial system that can support the efforts of MISCA, the African-led support mission to the country.

"It's urgent that a penal process is put in place in this country, and it must be an efficient penal system. That will help MISCA strengthen. And if this justice doesn't exist, the actions of the MISCA will always appear to be at fault."

The attack took place Wednesday in the capital, Bangui, shortly after interim President Catherine Samba-Panza praised the military for its efforts to regroup and reform, following a 2013 coup.

Witnesses says soldiers helped beat and stab the man, before dragging his body through the streets. They say attackers suspected the man belonged to the Seleka rebel movement that overthrew president Francois Bozize last March.

Television video showed a man stomping on an almost naked and lifeless body, with soldiers nearby.

Human Rights Watch emergencies director Peter Bouckaert was attending the ceremony where Samba-Panza spoke, and saw the attack.

In a VOA interview, he said African peacekeepers were nearby but did not initially intervene.

"They were, I believe, afraid of the massive mob of thousands of uniformed soldiers who were at the scene and this absolute scene of carnage in front of their eyes," he said.

The attack is an indication of the tensions between the CAR's Muslims and Christians since Mr. Bozize's ouster. Much of the fighting since his departure has been between Muslim ex-Seleka forces and mostly Christian "anti-Balaka" militias.

Bouckaert says some of those involved in the attack appeared to be anti-Balaka members.

The attack was also condemned by France, which has 1,600 peacekeepers in the CAR.

In a Thursday interview on French radio, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the U.N. would probably extend the country's six-month mandate in the CAR when it ends in May.

The United States is urging people in the Central African Republic to take advantage of international support and their new transitional government to break a cycle of violence that has affected the country for nearly a year.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. is deeply concerned by sectarian attacks against both Muslims and Christians, and that such violence must end.

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