Central African Republic is descending into catastrophe

'In many cases the wounds show that the victims were shot at close range. About 10 of the dead we found were women and some were children. One child, aged about 10, was shot multiple times and also mutilated; he had bullet wounds in the face, lower back and shoulder, and one of his hands had been cut off with a machete.'
Medic in Bossemptele

This is one of many chilling testimonies we’ve published in our new report on the continued killings in the Central African Republic. Each story is more harrowing than the last, documenting the horrors faced by ordinary men, women and children being deliberately targeted because of their religion.

The country’s descent into chaos began in December 2012, when mostly Muslim Seleka forces began a military operation which ended in them seizing power in March 2013.

They went on to commit massacres, extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, looting, burning and destruction of villages. In response, the mostly Christian anti-balaka militias began carrying out revenge attacks on Muslim civilians and the Seleka, including large-scale killings and widespread burning and looting of Muslim homes.

UN officials have stated that they see a risk of genocide in CAR and here at Amnesty we’ve warned that the country was on a downward spiral and that local civilians were not only advocating violent acts of revenge, but some are even participating in them.

Religious leaders from the Central African Republic, an imam and an archbishop, appealed to the British government for political support to try to halt the killings: "In particular, we call on the United Kingdom to support EU efforts in a full deployment of Eufor" – the European rapid reaction force.

Despite all of these warnings and cries for help, not enough is being done by the international community to stop the bloodshed.

Just last week the UK pledged £15million in humanitarian aid and £2 million in bilateral support to the African Union (AU). This aid is fundamental in providing basic necessities to people who have been fleeing the violence. However, we need the UK government to do more and continue to support and urge the African Union to provide sufficient resources to the peacekeeping forces before the UN’s prediction of genocide becomes a horrifying reality.

The complete absence of justice and accountability for these crimes has caused the number of revenge killings to escalate. But good news is starting to emerge - last week, International criminal court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda launched a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes.

An ICC investigation is a step in the right direction for accountability and justice, but more action is needed on the ground to prevent the ongoing slaughter of innocent men, women and children. This is why international peacekeeping troops need to step up their operations without delay.

Last week’s reports highlighted that French peacekeeping forces and the country’s authorities have proven to be powerless against the militias. Peacekeepers are largely absent in northwest towns where there are extreme levels of violence. In the town of Bossemptele, at least 100 Muslims were killed in one day alone.

 

#CARCrisis 100s Anti-Balaka 40 km south Bossemptele today. Told us just attacked Muslim villagers & will attack again pic.twitter.com/BrqTj0eedC

— Donatella Rovera (@DRovera) January 30, 2014

 

With all of this mounting evidence, the international community needs to step up to the plate to prevent further deaths of innocent people,

It is clear there needs to be an increase in international peacekeeping troops. The only question is where are they and why is it taking so much time for them to take necessary action?

We’re continuing to push for more peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. Please take action and demand that international peacekeeping troops act immediately to bring an end to this ethnic cleansing.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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