Tuesday 22 August 2017

Militias kill over 300 as CAR hit by sectarian violence

Seleka coalition rebels in the Central African Republic patrolling near Damara in 2013. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Seleka coalition rebels in the Central African Republic patrolling near Damara in 2013. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Nellie Peyton in Dakar

Militia violence in Central African Republic (CAR) has killed more than 300 people and displaced 100,000 in the last two weeks, the United Nations and the government said yesterday, in the worst displacement since a 2013 civil war.

The violence marks a sharp escalation in the long conflict that began when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition overthrew then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, prompting reprisals from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Fighting in the last two weeks has hit the towns of Bria, Bangassou and Alindao, all hundreds of kilometres east of the capital Bangui, the UN humanitarian office and the minister of social affairs said in a joint statement.

"It's a catastrophe," Social Affairs Minister Virginie Baikoua told journalists after a visit on Wednesday to Bria.

"Houses are burnt down, others pillaged... The displaced are afraid it could degenerate at any moment because armed men are roaming around the camps."

More than 41,400 of Bria's 47,500 inhabitants were displaced by fighting between May 15 and 18, the statement said.

The Red Cross said last week it had found 115 bodies in Bangassou, a diamond-mining area on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo after it was seized by hundreds of militia with heavy weaponry.

UN peacekeepers, part of a 13,000-strong force, have since secured Bangassou and reinforced their positions in other areas, the mission (Minusca) said in a statement.

Around 440,000 people were displaced throughout the country by the end of April and that number could reach 500,000 by the end of May. That would represent the most displaced since the height of the crisis in 2013, the UN said.

CAR has been unstable since its long-time president was ousted by northern rebels in March 2013. By the end of that year, sectarian violence had exploded and eventually forced most of the capital's Muslims to flee to neighbouring countries.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in World News