THE UN has described the Central African Republic, where armed
groups of Christians and Muslims are battling for supremacy, as a
virtually lawless country.
The Islamic rebel group Seleka seized control of the
mineral-rich former French colony in March, but human-rights groups
say that both sides may have committed war crimes. About half the
4.6 million population is Christian, about 15 per cent Muslim, and
the remainder have various indigenous beliefs.
The UN Security Council received a briefing last Friday from
officials, including Adama Dieng, a UN special adviser for the
prevention of genocide. He later told reporters: "We are seeing
armed groups killing people under the guise of their religion. My
feeling is that this will end with Christian communities and Muslim
communities' killing each other. If we don't act now, and
decisively, I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide
The African Union plans a 3600-strong peacekeeping mission,
known as MISCA, but it is unlikely to be operational before 2014,
and the Security Council is considering support for MISCA,
including converting it into a UN peacekeeping operation.
The French Ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said: "This
country is now simply plundered, looted, the women are raped,
people are killed by thugs. The country has fallen into
"More and more you have inter-sectarian violence because the
Seleka targeted the churches and the Christians; so now the
Christians have created self-defence militias, and they are
retaliating against the Muslims."
France has a small force in the capital, Bangui, securing the
airport and its local interests, and is considering increasing its
A BBC reporter who reached Bossangoa, the birthplace of the
deposed president, Francois Bozize, now in the rebels' heartland,
described it as a "ghost town": only the Roman Catholic mission was
active, functioning as a market and camp for displaced people.
The refugees claim that they are detained and beaten or shot if
they are identified as members of the Christian militia Anti-balaka
("anti-machete"). One young man told the BBC: "I want to become a
rebel and kill members of Seleka. We suffered too much."
The UNHCR estimates that about 200,000 people are internally
displaced, and another 70,000 have fled to neighbouring
The Seleka leader Michel Djotodia, the first Muslim to rule the
republic as Interim President, has promised to hold democratic
elections and to disband Seleka.