Central African crisis

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 08:35

Reports from Central African Republic (CAR), one of the poorest and most unstable states in the world , suggest it is now spiralling uncontrollably, largely unnoticed, into the sort of nightmare ethnic cleansing that devastated Rwanda. Thousands are said to have died and the UN reports 650,000 people have been internally displaced escaping the violence, more than 232,000 in capital Bangui alone. Nearly 300,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon. Many face food and water shortages and have no shelter.

“Since early December we have effectively witnessed a ‘cleansing’ of the majority of the Muslim population in western CAR,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres told the UN Security Council on Thursday. Overshadowed by the emergency debates on the Ukraine, it also met and heard a broad consensus on an appeal from the CAR’s foreign minister, Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, for the urgent deployment of a 12,000-strong UN force of soldiers and police. France is preparing a motion on a force that will incorporate some 6,000 African Union forces already in country. The EU is deploying 1,000 soldiers to join them and 2,000 French troops who have to date been unable to halt the killings .

They are struggling to control the Bangui region and guard some 70,000 civilians who have sought shelter at an emergency UN base at the airport. “International forces are present in some of these sites, but if more security is not made available immediately, many of these civilians risk being killed right before our eyes,” Guterres warned.

The country plunged into violence a year ago when Muslim rebels from the north invaded the capital and overthrew the president. They pillaged neighbourhoods, raping and killing with impunity for months, giving rise to a Christian militia that has been involved in violent reprisals against Muslims and attempted a coup in early December. State institutions have largely collapsed. Speed and urgency, for which the UN is not renowned, are crucial.

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