Monday, October 31, 2016

Never-ending conflict

Renewed fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced more than 20,000 people to flee to a UN base to seek safety and shelter. In northern CAR humanitarian workers have suspended relief efforts in the area, leaving thousands vulnerable. The withdrawal of the World Food Programme because of security concerns will impact about 120,000 people dependent on food supplies, and 35,000 others living precariously in surrounding camps for internally displaced people.

Houses have been razed and three sites for IDPs have been attacked, forcing civilians to seek help at the UN stabilisation mission base (MINUSCA) in the area.

At least 65 people have been killed over the past four weeks in violence across the western, eastern and central parts of the country. Last week, 25 people were killed in two days of violence in and around the town of Bambari. Earlier in the month, 40 people - including three school teachers - were killed when Kaga Bandero town was attacked, allegedly by ex-Seleka rebels. The UN repelled the attack, killing 12 fighters.

ladimir Monteiro, MINUSCA's spokesperson in Bangui, told Al Jazeera the violence over the past month and a half has been perpetuated by "…armed groups who have been manipulated. Some of the actions are being fuelled by politicians who are against the government. Eleven out of the 13 armed groups are in talks with government, but there are others who are looking to create instability in the country," Monteiro said. MINUSCA has been in the spotlight for the past 18 months after scores of allegations of child rape and other sexual abuse by its peacekeepers. French troops have also been accused of committing sexual abuse against civilians, including minors.

Not all the violence was political, with some likely stemming from conflict over cattle.

CAR has struggled with political insecurity ever since the Seleka rebels, a Muslim-led armed group, overthrew the government in a 2003 coup, leading to a series of atrocities and then reprisal attacks by a viglante group called the anti-Balaka, made up of Christian and animist fighters. Both anti-Balaka and Seleka groups have been accused of widespread human rights abuse against civilians, including murder, sexual violence, and mass displacement.  More than 400,000 people have been displaced internally and almost half a million others have fled to neighbouring countries. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to formally end French military intervention, known as Operation Sangaris, that began in December 2013. There are currently 350 French troops in the country. Currently 12,000 peacekeepers operate in CAR.

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