Central African Republic at a critical juncture, warns Pillay
GENEVA – The Central African Republic is now at a critical juncture, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned on Monday, amid renewed fighting and the flight of ex-Séléka and Muslim civilians towards the north of the country.
Since 21 January, clashes between anti-Balaka and ex-Séléka supported by armed Muslim civilians in the Bangui neighbourhoods of PK5, PK11, PK12 and PK13, have resulted in several casualties. Mobs went on a rampage, looting shops, homes and mosques in Muslim areas of these neighbourhoods. The fighting has also forced ex-Séléka and Muslim civilians to flee towards the town of Damara, some 65 km north of Bangui.
“I welcome the appointment of Catherine Samba-Panza as the Head of State of the Transition and her repeated calls for an end to violence. However the security and human rights situation has further deteriorated over the past few days. Muslim civilians are now extremely vulnerable. Many are being pushed out of the country, alongside ex-Séléka, and are now fleeing, mostly towards the Chadian border,” Pillay said.
Serious incidents of violence have also been reported beyond Bangui as ex-Séléka and Muslim civilians flee the country.
Despite the presence of African peacekeeping troops in Bouar, clashes were reported between remaining ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka, supported by former national army (ex-FACA) soldiers, on January 20 and 21. Several civilians and ex-Séléka fighters were reportedly killed. The town is deserted and anti-Balaka have allegedly threatened international organisations that are sheltering the Muslim relatives of their staff.
Following the death of their commander in Bouar, a group of ex-Séléka allegedly fled with Muslim civilians in some twenty vehicles and a group of them entered the town of Bocaranga on 21 January. They reportedly fired on the population, killing at least 10 people and injuring many others. Growing numbers of local civilians are reported to be leaving Bocaranga, where ex-Séléka groups from other prefectures are reportedly regrouping on their way to Chad.
In the nearby town of Baoro, anti-Balaka reportedly attacked Muslim civilians on January 22, killing at least 80 people and injuring several hundreds. Close to 4,000 houses were also allegedly burned.
“I am also deeply concerned about the proliferation of armed groups and the explosion of common criminality which are making the situation even more chaotic and dangerous,” Pillay said.
“We simply cannot let the social fabric of this country be torn apart. I call as a matter of utmost urgency upon the international community to strengthen peacekeeping efforts. There is a need to urgently restore security not only in Bangui but also in other parts of the country. Many lives are at stake,” Pillay said.