The African Union (AU) Heads of State meeting starting tomorrow must address the growing crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). They must ensure they complete the full and rapid deployment of peacekeepers to protect civilians in rural areas at risk of imminent attack.
Over the last week Amnesty International has gathered first-hand information of large scale slaughter of both Christian and Muslim civilians in the North-West CAR. The presence of international peacekeepers in these areas is essential to help prevent further atrocities, particularly as rival militias converge on this region.
“There is a real danger of further escalation of what is already a human disaster. The peacekeeping forces have had an effect where they are deployed, but there are large swathes of the North West where there is a notable absence. Here towns have been attacked and there is a real risk of further atrocities.” said Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser Donatella Rovera who is currently in the region.
Armed clashes between anti-balaka militias and remnants of the ex-Seleka forces and their supporters over the last week have resulted in unlawful killings and injuries to civilians, as well as the burning of thousands of homes. Amnesty International has two senior crisis advisers reporting from the areas around Baoro, Bossemptele and Bozoum.
“We fear civilians in the Central African Republic are paying a heavy price for delays by the AU. The meeting of the Heads of States tomorrow should be used to ensure that the remaining troops are deployed rapidly and effectively so that they fulfil their mandate to protect civilians.” said Netsanet Belay, Africa Director at Amnesty International.
Peacekeepers were sent to the CAR with a clear mandate: to protect civilian lives. Where they have been deployed they have made a difference, but recent events show they must be deployed in areas where there is a real and imminent danger to civilians.
A lack of transport and any basic facilities or humanitarian aid means that civilians displaced by the conflict are stranded, unable to flee to safety, without any support, and in very real danger of being attacked.