CAR faces ‘ethnic cleansing’ as UN warns over division
LIBREVILLE / UNITED NATIONS
A man holds a knife to his throat claiming that he is looking for Muslims to cut off their heads in the capital city of Bangui. There are currently 5,300 African Union troops operating under a UN mandate in the former French colony, and the force is expected to reach 6,000 by March. AFP photoEthnic cleansing is being carried out against Muslim civilians in the Central African Republic, with international peacekeepers unable to prevent it, Amnesty International said yesterday. The report came as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned that the strife-torn country could split into two as he urged the global community to do more to prevent further atrocities there.
Amnesty said it had documented at least 200 killings of Muslim civilians by Christian militia groups known as the anti-balaka, set up in the wake of the March 2013 coup by the mainly-Muslim Seleka rebellion.
“’Ethnic cleansing’ of Muslims has been carried out in the western part of the Central African Republic, the most populous part of the country, since early January 2014,” Amnesty International said in a report.
“Entire Muslim communities have been forced to flee, and hundreds of Muslim civilians who have not managed to escape have been killed by the loosely organized militias known as anti-balaka.” The group said attacks against Muslims had been committed “with the stated intent to forcibly displace these communities from the country,” with many anti-balaka fighters viewing Muslims as “’foreigners’ who should leave the country or be killed.”
“They appear to be achieving their aims, with Muslims being forced out of the country in increasingly large numbers,” it said. The impoverished country descended into chaos last March after the rebellion overthrew the government, sparking deadly violence that has uprooted a million people out of a population of 4.6 million.
Atrocities, the fear of attacks and a lack of food have displaced a quarter of the country’s population,
while the United Nations and relief agencies estimate that at least two million people need humanitarian assistance.
“The sectarian brutality is changing the country’s demography,” Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York. “The de facto partition of the C.A.R. is a distinct risk,” he said. “The international response does not yet match the gravity of the situation,” Ban said. “We must do more to prevent more atrocities, protect civilians, restore law and order, provide humanitarian assistance and hold the country together.”
Amnesty urged international peacekeeping forces in the country to “take rapid steps to break anti-balaka control over the country’s road network, and to station sufficient troops in towns where Muslims are threatened.”
There are currently 5,300 African Union troops operating under a U.N. mandate in the former French colony, and the force is expected to reach 6,000 by March.
France has deployed 1,600 troops, while the EU has promised to deploy 500 troops at the beginning of March and the United States is providing logistical support.
“The international response must be robust -- with a credible deployment of force,” Ban said.
“I ... continue to urge the international community to support the AU and MISCA at this time,” he added as he called on the EU to “accelerate the deployment of its military operation.”