UN warns Central African Republic at risk of 'genocide'
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At a Security Council meeting on Friday, the UN’s top expert on the prevention of genocide supported the swift deployment of additional peacekeepers to the Central African Republic before clashes between religious militias escalate into ethnic war.
Senior diplomats have warned that mounting violence between rival militias in the lawless Central African Republic (CAR) could turn into a “genocide”.
“We are seeing armed groups killing people under the guise of their religion and my feeling is that this will end with Christian communities, Muslim communities killing each other,” Adama Dieng, the United Nations’ special adviser on the prevention of genocide, told reporters after an informal UN Security Council meeting on the crisis on Friday.
“If we don’t act now and decisively I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide occurring in the Central African Republic,” he added.
Rwanda was among the countries that called for the Security Council meeting. Its ambassador to the UN, Eugène Richard Gasana, said reports from CAR reminded him of the genocide in his own country.
“I had the impression it is like in 1994 at home,” Gasana told reporters.
France, too, has been pushing for intensified UN action. The former colonial power has called for a peacekeeping force to be deployed and is increasing its own military presence there.
French ambassador to the United Nations Gérard Araud said a UN force of between 8,000 and 10,000 troops may be needed.
“African forces will not be sufficient,” Dieng said in reference to the existing 2,500-strong African Union MISCA peacekeeping mission. “The country has been totally destroyed. There is total chaos.”
A rebel alliance known as Séléka took over the Central African Republic in March. A Séléka leader, Michel Djotodia, named himself president but agreed to hold elections next year. Armed gangs, mainly former Séléka loyalists, now dominate outside the capital Bangui.
“Unprecedented scale of human rights violations”
On Tuesday, Amnesty International published a report highlighting “the unprecedented scale of human rights violations committed across the country by Séléka”.
Generalised lawlessness has pushed local populations to organise self-defence groups around the country, often along religious lines.
The latest clashes between warlords and peasant militias were reported by Radio France Internationale (RFI) in Bossembelé, north-west of the capital Bangui, in the past two days.
Local sources told RFI that the town’s former Séléka rulers had summarily executed four men, prompting thousands of residents to flee into the bush.
“Provincial towns are under threat – especially our Muslim brothers, with whom we have always lived, whose parents moved to Bossembelé and who grew up in Bossembelé,” a farmer told RFI after leaving the town.
He added he had to travel 150km to Bangui to find medicines for his family amid the confusion.
According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, nearly half a million people have been forced to flee their homes since March in CAR.