UNITED NATIONS: Most Muslims have been driven out of the western half of conflict-torn Central African Republic, where thousands of civilians risk being killed “right before our eyes,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said.
The bleak warning came as the country’s foreign minister pleaded with the UN Security Council to urgently approve a UN peacekeeping force to stop the killing.
Widespread violence in the former French colony has claimed thousands of lives since Seleka, a coalition of mostly Muslim northern rebels, seized power a year ago. Attacks intensified in December when “anti-Balaka” militias drawn from the majority Christian population stepped up reprisals on Muslims.
“Since early December we have effectively witnessed a ‘cleansing’ of the majority of the Muslim population in western CAR,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the 15-nation UN Security Council on the crisis in the impoverished and landlocked country.
“Tens of thousands of them (Muslims) have left the country, the second refugee outflow of the current crisis, and most of those remaining are under permanent threat,” he said.
The council is considering a UN proposal for a nearly 12,000-strong peacekeeping force to stop the country from sliding toward what a top UN rights official called “ethnic-religious cleansing.”
“Just last week, there were about 15,000 people trapped in 18 locations in western CAR, surrounded by anti-Balaka elements and at very high risk of attack,” Guterres said.
“International forces are present in some of these sites, but if more security is not made available immediately, many of these civilians risk being killed right before our eyes.”