De­spite truce, killings mount in CAR con­flict

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

DE­SPITE a truce signed just the day be­fore, 50 peo­ple have been killed in Bria, in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR), fol­low­ing clashes be­tween ri­val armed fac­tions.

As hu­man rights abuses, in­clud­ing killings, rapes and the tar­get­ing of UN peace­keep­ers con­tinue un­abated, the UN has warned that the wave of vi­o­lence wrack­ing the coun­try is un­sus­tain­able.

On Tues­day, bod­ies lay in the streets of Bria, around 580km north-east of the cap­i­tal, Ban­gui, while dozens more peo­ple were treated for shot­gun wounds af­ter fight­ing erupted at dawn, Al Jazeera re­ported.

Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders said they had al­ready re­ceived 35 wounded at the hos­pi­tal the group runs in Bria by early morn­ing, with most of the wounded suf­fer­ing gun­shot wounds.

The UN Mis­sion in CAR re­ported that the fight­ing erupted near a camp hous­ing peo­ple who had been forced to flee pre­vi­ous out­breaks of vi­o­lence.

“We re­gret the pres­ence of armed el­e­ments in IDP (In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons) camps, which causes prob­lems not just in Bria but also in other lo­ca­tions. It’s a re­al­ity,” said Mi­nusca spokesman Vladimir Mon­teiro.

Hu­man Rights Watch warned yes­ter­day that peo­ple with a range of dis­abil­i­ties who were of­ten un­able to flee vi­o­lence were es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to at­tack while try­ing to flee.

The bloody clashes on Tues­day erupted just a day af­ter Ban­gui signed a cease­fire ac­cord with 13 of the coun­try’s 14 rebel groups, a deal that was bro­kered by the Catholic com­mu­nity fol­low­ing five days of in­ten­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions in Rome.

The deal en­abled armed groups to have po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in re­turn for an end to at­tacks and block­ades.

While the of­fice of Pres­i­dent Faustin-Ar­change Touadera, who was elected last year, ap­plauded Mon­day’s deal, call­ing it “an his­toric ac­cord”, other re­ac­tions in Ban­gui were less op­ti­mistic.

“This ac­cord sim­ply fol­lows the same sce­nario re­peated over and over,” said Joseph Bin­doumi, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral African League of Hu­man Rights.

“Those who signed are mock­ing the peo­ple.”

Fur­ther­more, Djamil Ba­banani, a spokesman for the Pop­u­lar Front for the Re­birth of the CAR stated that al­though his group had signed the deal they re­tained the right to de­fend them­selves.

Fol­low­ing the dis­turb­ing de­vel­op­ments, Marie-Therese Keita Bo­coum, the UN’s in­de­pen­dent ex­pert on hu­man rights in the coun­try, warned that armed groups were spread­ing at a “wor­ry­ing” rate in cen­tral and south­ern ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in the re­gions of Ouaka, Mbo­mou and Basse-Kotto”.

Last month, clashes in Bria, Alin­dao, Ban­gas­sou and Mobaye, east of Ban­gui, left 300 dead and 200 wounded, ac­cord­ing to the UN’s hu­man­i­tar­ian co-or­di­na­tion agency.

CAR is fac­ing a dire cri­sis with more than 50% of the pop­u­la­tion need­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance. As of last month, there were more than 500 000 in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons na­tion­wide.

Clashes be­tween the mainly Mus­lim Seleka rebel coali­tion and anti-Balaka mili­tia, which are mostly Chris­tian, plunged the coun­try of 4.5 mil­lion peo­ple into con­flict in 2013.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Seleka fighters stand in the town of Bria, Cen­tral African Repub­lic.

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