With the Central African Republic (CAR) capital of Bangui having relapsed into wider violence, the United Nations human rights office today urged States to support the world body’s appeal for thousands more peacekeepers and police.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), at least 60 people have been killed in Bangui in the past 10 days amid stepped-up attacks between the mainly Christian militias known as anti-Balaka and Muslims.
OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told reporters in Geneva that on 27 March, at least 20 people were killed and 11 injured when a grenade was thrown at a crowd of mourners during a funeral service near the PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui.
On 22 and 23 March, anti-Balaka elements attacked that same neighbourhood, where some 700 Muslims are believed to be stranded, in an attempt to take control of the zone. According to the Red Cross, at least 15 people were killed during the subsequent fighting and the intervention of the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA) and the French military force in CAR known as Sangaris.
There are also reports of increased tensions and clashes between anti-Balaka elements and MISCA, with anti-Balaka reportedly directly targeting the mission’s military and civilian personnel on several occasions.
This past Saturday, 24 people were allegedly killed and some 100 people injured, including at least one child, by Chadian soldiers on the outskirts of the PK12 neighbourhood, in the suburb of Begoua.
“Although we are still trying to clarify the exact circumstances of this incident, it appears that Chadian soldiers fired indiscriminately at a crowd following an incident,” said Ms. Pouilly. “We are still trying to confirm the exact affiliation of these soldiers.”
On Monday, she added, an anti-Balaka element reportedly threw a grenade at Chadian soldiers, before being killed by French troops.
“In the light of this further deterioration of the security situation, we once again urge States to support the Secretary-General’s urgent appeal for thousands more peacekeepers and police,” Ms. Pouilly stated.
Amid the ongoing conflict in CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed the deployment of a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission that will be tasked, first and foremost, with protecting civilians in the strife-torn nation.
The UN is uniquely positioned to deploy and sustain such a mission – which would aim at re-hatting as many MISCA troops as possible – with the full range of capacities required to address the complex crisis in the country.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and 2.2 million, about half the population of CAR, need humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict that began in December 2012, when mainly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks.
More than 650,000 people are still internally displaced, and over 290,000 have fled to neighbouring countries in search of refuge from the conflict, which has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones.
“The renewed inter-communal violence has triggered further displacement within the country and across its borders,” Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva.
CAR refugees – mostly Muslim – continue to stream into neighbouring countries, according to the agency. In the past three months, more than 82,000 people from CAR have found shelter in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo and Chad.
UNHCR added that it fears for the lives of 19,000 Muslims in the PK12 neighbourhood of Bangui, in Boda, Carnot and Berberati, to the west of Bangui, and in Bossangoa, further north. Ms. Lejeune-Kaba stated that the agency stands ready to assist with their evacuation to safer areas within or outside the country.
She added that many of Boda’s Christians also fear the anti-Balaka militiamen, who operate with impunity.