Deadly C. Africa clashes raise genocide fears: UN

Libreville (AFP) – At least 45 people have been killed in fighting in Central African Republic, aid workers said Tuesday, as the UN said it saw “early signs of a genocide” in the conflict-wracked nation.

Twenty-four people including 14 civilians died in Batangafo in the northwest of the country in clashes between armed groups from July 29 to August 2, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

Residences used by humanitarian organisations in Batangafo were plundered after the fighting, medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) told AFP.

The other deaths occurred in a southern village near Alindao where fighting on August 4 claimed about 10 lives and left seven others wounded, OCHA said.

Fighting in Ngaoundaye, near the borders with Cameroon and Chad, killed at least 10 others and forced around 7,000 people to flee the area, several sources told AFP.

Alexandre Sarr, head of the UN refugees agency UNHCR in Meiganga, Cameroon, said at least 6,885 people had arrived from CAR since July 10.

“Many are in poor health and many are malnourished children,” he told AFP.

At a UN meeting in New York on Monday, OCHA chief Stephen O’Brien urged immediate action to contain the crisis in CAR before it’s too late.

“The early warning signs of a genocide are there. We must act now, not pare down the UN’s effort and pray we don’t live to regret it,” he said.

“It is all too clear to those on the ground: it is time to authorise an increase in troops and police personnel to enable MINUSCA to deliver on its critical protection mandate,” he added, referring to the UN’s peacekeeping force.

UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix last week said he was considering sending a request to the UN Security Council for more troops for MINUSCA, currently 12,350 strong.

One of the world’s poorest nations, CAR was pitched into a war between Muslim and Christian militias in 2013 after President Francois Bozize was overthrown by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

They in turn were ousted by a military intervention led by former colonial ruler France. Those events sparked some of the bloodiest sectarian violence in the country’s history as mainly Christian vigilante groups sought revenge.

The government of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected last year, remains in control of Bangui but its authority is weak outside the capital, where deadly clashes continue between former Seleka rebels and Christian fighters.

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