Violence and looting in Bangui over the weekend left at least 11 people dead in the Central African Republic, including a lawmaker who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting and two Muslims who were lynched in revenge attacks.
Fresh fighting flared Saturday evening between Christian vigilantes and Muslims in western Bangui, where winesses say many buildings were also torched.
The Central African League of Human Rights told AFP Sunday that a Bangui lawmaker had been gunned down by attackers on a motorcycle after calling for an end to the violence. Jean-Emmanuel Ndjaroua – the representative of the southeast region of Haute Kotto – had condemned the violence against the Muslim residents of his district in front of the interim parliament on Saturday.
A resident said that the Muslim killer of a Christian woman was lynched and killed before his body was burned and dumped in front of the local town hall, where it remained early on Sunday.
A suspected Christian militiaman killed another Muslim civilian and was about to burn the body when Rwandan soldiers of the African peacekeeping force MISCA shot him dead. The shooting prompted an angry crowd to shout slogans against the Rwandan soldiers, whom they mistakenly believed to be Muslim.
Five other people were killed in unclear circumstances, witnesses said.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch confirmed the eyewitness reports and said another Muslim was lynched early Sunday near Bangui's central market.
Descent into chaos
The country slipped into chaos after Michel Djotodia’s predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels deposed president François Bozizé in a March coup.
Djotodia officially disbanded the rebel group after he seized power, but some of its former members launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting, prompting some communities in the Christian-majority nation to form vigilante militias.
The violence has raged unabated even after Djotodia stepped aside and the parliament appointed interim President Catherine Samba Panza last month, and Muslims have been fleeing the violence in their thousands.
A man was lynched Friday after he fell off a lorry that was part of a convoy of terrified Muslims fleeing Bangui. Residents hacked him to death and dumped his body on the roadside.
'The French won't fire at us'
Looting has become rampant in the capital, where young people could be seen removing furniture and equipment from buildings and shops -- some still smouldering from fires set on Saturday -- despite the heavy presence of French and African peacekeepers as a French helicopter gunship circled above.
The peacekeepers went from door to door to try to rout the looters, who simply moved on to other targets, pushing their carts and wheelbarrows between French armoured cars.
"The French won't fire at us," one young looter said, laughing.
The mayhem came as French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian began an African tour on Sunday in the Chadian capital N'Djamena mainly focused on the Central African conflict.
Chad is France's main partner in the military operation to reestablish security in the Central African Republic, contributing 850 troops to the 3,700-strong MISCA (African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic) force. France has deployed some 1,600 troops to the country since the beginning of December.
Le Drian is to meet Chad's President Idriss Deby, often described as the kingmaker of Bangui politics, before heading to Brazzaville for talks with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, a mediator in the conflict.
Le Drian will begin his third visit since the French operation codenamed Sangaris was launched two months ago on Wednesday.
The International Criminal Court said Friday it had opened an initial probe into war crimes in the Central African Republic.
Atrocities, the fear of attacks and a lack of food have displaced almost a quarter of the country's population of about 4.6 million, while the United Nations and relief agencies estimate that at least two million people need humanitarian assistance.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-10