UNITED NATIONS : Violence in Central African Republic risks escalating into a religious conflict amid an increasing number of clashes between Christian and Muslim militias, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has warned.
Killings are occurring across the country on a daily basis and the population is divided along religious lines, Feltman, a US national, said while briefing the UN Security Council in New York on Monday. Access to residential neighborhoods in the capital, Bangui, is controlled by anti-Christian or anti-Muslim checkpoints, while in towns such as Bossangoa, Bouar and Paoua, there have been clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities, he said.
“The danger of escalation into sustained violence along religious lines remains real, with the potential for long-term danger to the country,” Feltman said.
Central African Republic was plunged into lawlessness after rebels overthrew Christian President Francois Bozize in March and Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, was appointed as national leader. About 2.2 million people, almost half the country’s population, need humanitarian assistance, while one in every two inhabitants of Bangui has been forced to flee their home, according to Feltman.
Countries including Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal repatriated tens of thousands of their citizens, most of whom are Muslims, since the conflict began, Feltman said.
“This is the first time in the history of the CAR that people on account of their religion have felt obliged to leave the country for fear for their lives,” he said. Now lack of security, funding and access is hampering efforts by the UN and its partners to bring relief, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported Monday. “The violence and the atrocities in the CAR must stop,” Feltman said. “Those in positions of authority or influence must do more to end violence and halt grave violations against civilians, including children.