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Central African Republic on the brink of genocide, U.N. official warns

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 20th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

With widespread political instability and further clashes between Muslims and Christians, a United Nations official warns that the threat of genocide looms over the roiling Central African Republic. At least 20 people were killed in a clash last week, and there is no immediate solution in sight.  

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Central African Republic has been designated by the U.N. as one of the top three global humanitarian emergencies, along with Syria and the Philippines. However, a U.N. appeal has received only six percent of a $247 million target.

Returning from a five-day trip to the country, John Ging, director of operations for the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the crisis was foreseeable and stemmed from many years of international neglect of the chaotic country.

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"The elements are there, the seeds are there, for a genocide," Ging told a news conference in Geneva. "It has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere, in places like Rwanda and Bosnia."

The chiefly Muslim rebel coalition here, called Seleka, seized power in March of last year. There has been a wave of killings and looting that have sparked retaliation by Christian militia known as "anti-balaka, or "anti-machete."

In addition to the killings, more than a million people have been displaced by the violence since Seleka installed their leader Michel Djotodia as the interim president. In a sign of the growing violence, over 1,000 people were killed last month alone in the capital of Bangui. Neighboring countries have since evacuated more than 30,000 of their citizens in response.

While there has been "relative calm" since Djotodia resigned last week under intense international pressure, sporadic violence has persisted in Bangui. A spokesman for a 15,000-strong group of anti-balaka, Sebastien Wenezoui criticized the interim government with threats of 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," Wenezoui  said at a base in the northern Bangui suburb of Boeing, flanked by around 20 militiamen armed with knives, machetes and Kalashnikovs.

The group wants the nation's transitional assembly (CNT) to be reworked to boost the presence of the anti-balaka as well as reduce the number of Seleka representatives. The group plans to march next week to try to stop the appointment of a new interim president, he added.

According to Ging, the Central African Republic is now little more than a territory on a map, without state infrastructure and functioning security forces. While French and African Union peacekeepers were having a positive effect but were stretched to their limits.

"Central African Republic has to move up the priority list," Ging said. "However desperate and alarming the situation might be right now, it can be turned around very quickly."

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