The UN has launched an inquiry into recent violence in Central African Republic, where fighting has displaced some one million people and left thousands dead. Investigators fear genocide will come next.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Monday, the leader of a UN investigation in Central African Republic (CAR) said his team's mission would focus on verifying the possibility of genocide taking place in the war-torn country.
Bernard Acho Muna, who heads the mission, previously served as former deputy chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for Rwanda. He cited the prevalence of "hate propaganda" currently circulating throughout CAR as a chief cause for concern.
"Genocide starts always with propaganda, convincing the population that this group of people are evil, they are bad, they should be eliminated," Muna told reporters.
"One thing I can tell you from my Rwandan experience, is that ... hate propaganda ... is usually a very bad sign," he said, adding that there had also been reports of genocide.
In 1994, Rwanda's majority Hutu population targeted the country's Tutsi minority - which made up less than 15 percent of the Rwanda's seven million inhabitants - for the nation's economic and political woes. Of the roughly 800,000 Rwandans who perished in the subsequent fighting, the UN estimates that as many as three-quarters of them were Tutsi.
The clashes in CAR have pitted Christians against a predominantly Muslim Seleka group. Early last year, Seleka fighters staged a coup and installed President Michel Djotodia.
Violence escalated again several months later as Christian groups began forming what they described as self-defense militias against Seleka fighters. The crisis led to the internal displacement of roughly 650,000 people and prompted at least 300,000 additional people to flee the country.
The French and African Union military intervention currently working on the ground has failed to curb the violence. The UN has also warned of a food crisis as over one million people are in need of immediate food aid.
"We don't wait until genocide is committed and then we call for prosecution. I think it is in our mandate to see how one can stop any advances toward genocide," Muna said.
Muna is to be accompanied by Mexico's former foreign secretary, Jorge Castenada, and leading Mauritanian human rights activist Fatimata M'Baye during the investigation. The team plans to conduct interviews with witnesses to the violence in multiple locations in CAR. They hope to draw up a list of suspected perpetrators by the end of their two-week visit, which will begin on Tuesday when they arrive in Bangui.
- AFP, Reuters