The UN warned Thursday that bloodshed in the Central African Republic could turn into genocide as horrors continue to unfold in the country where parliament is preparing to choose a new leader.
Violence in the highly unstable country has not let up despite the resignation last week of strongman Michel Djotodia under intense regional pressure, and at least seven more people were killed in the capital overnight.
The violence “has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere in places like Rwanda, Bosnia. The elements are there for a genocide, there is no question about that,” UN humanitarian operations director John Ging told reporters in Geneva after a five-day visit to the country.
“Atrocities are being committed on an ongoing basis, (and) fear is consuming the minds of an entire population, wherever you might go,” Ging said.
AFP reporters on Thursday saw the bodies of three people, including a teenage boy, killed by bullets in a city mosque, while the country’s Red Cross office said it had collected the corpses of four men killed by machete.
Tension ran high in northern Bangui, where French troops patrolled in a bid to quell the unrest that spiralled between Muslim former rebels and the Christian majority in the wake of a coup that last year plunged the poor, landlocked country into chaos.
Some residents of the district accused French soldiers of shooting people during a search. “They fired at the three men,” said a youth, pointing to spent shells.
The French army acknowledged that there had been a clash but denied any link with the deaths.
“At the end of yesterday afternoon we were challenged by unidentified armed elements. We fired back but there is no confirmation of the toll. The three dead have nothing to do with the clash,” a military source said.
‘We’re being massacred here’
Panicked Muslim residents were fleeing, headed northwards for neighbouring Chad, a country unfamiliar to many of them. AFP journalists saw dozens of people packed into lorries accompanied by Chadian troops from a regional African force named MISCA.
Women in tears and terrified children scrambled to get aboard moving vehicles, some of them wounded by Christian “anti-balaka” militias formed in response to atrocities by armed Muslims.