Telegraph (London), January 17, 2014
A senior United Nationals official has warned of the risk of genocide in Central African Republic if the outside world does not become more closely involved.
John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke after further communal bloodshed that claimed 20 more lives on Thursday.
“The elements are there, the seeds are there, for a genocide,” he told a news conference in Geneva. “It has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere, in places like Rwanda and Bosnia.”
The former French colony descended into chaos after a mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, seized power in March, unleashing a wave of killings and looting that sparked revenge attacks by Christian militiamen known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete).
More than a million people have been displaced by the violence since Seleka installed their leader Michel Djotodia as interim president. More than 1,000 people were killed last month alone in the capital Bangui, prompting neighboring countries to evacuate more than 30,000 of their citizens.
There has been relative calm since Mr Djotodia resigned last week under intense international pressure, but sporadic violence has persisted in Bangui. On Thursday, a spokesman for a 15,000-strong group of anti-balaka criticized the interim government and threatened a return to violence if it was not overhauled.
“If there is no solution to this, we always have our machetes which we have not yet handed in,” the spokesman, Sebastien Wenezoui, told Reuters at a base in the northern Bangui suburb of Boeing, flanked by around 20 militiamen armed with knives, machetes and Kalashnikovs.
His group wants the country’s transitional assembly (CNT) to be reworked to boost the presence of the anti-balaka and reduce the number of Seleka representatives. It plans a march in Bangui on Friday to try to stop the appointment of a new interim president, he added.
Central African Republic is designated by the United Nations as one of the top three global humanitarian emergencies, along with Syria and the Philippines. But a U.N. appeal has received only 6 percent of a $247 million target.
Returning from a five-day trip to the country, a U.N. official said the crisis was foreseeable and stemmed from many years of international neglect of the chaotic country.
Many say the bloodshed has little to do with religion, in a nation where Muslims and Christians have long lived in peace. Instead, they blame a political battle for control over natural resources in one of Africa’s weakest states, split along ethnic lines and worsened by foreign meddling.
Around 20 more people were killed on Thursday when anti-balaka fighters attacked a convoy of Muslims, many of them women and children, headed for the town of Bouar, 280 miles to the west of Bangui, witnesses said.
The families were fleeing militia attacks in the nearby town of Bohong.