New York, US - Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, says Central African Republic (CAR) is facing the long-term danger of being polarized along religious lines, warning that the situation may spill beyond the country’s borders and further destabilize the whole region.
Mr. Feltman, who briefed the UN Security Council, said since communal violence erupted on 5 December, 2013, over 750 casualties have been confirmed in the capital Bangui alone, noting that the death toll outside Bangui was likely to be substantial.
He stated: 'Access to residential neighbourhoods in Bangui is controlled either by 'anti-Christian' or 'anti-Muslim' checkpoints, manned by armed civilians.'
'Similarly, localities outside Bangui like Bossangoa, Bouar, Bozoum and Paoua, among others, witness atrocities on a daily basis, including direct clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities,' he stressed.
According to him: 'The danger of escalation into sustained violence along religious lines remains real, with the potential for long-term danger to the country.'
Mr. Feltman also said that several African countries have repatriated tens of thousands of their citizens, the vast majority of whom are Muslims.
He also told the Security Council that this is the first time in the history of the Central African Republic that people have felt obliged to flee the country on account of their religion.
'The violence and the atrocities in the CAR must stop. Those in positions of authority or influence must do more to end violence and halt grave violations against civilians, including children.
'Attacks against humanitarian personnel, and the use of civilian spaces such as schools and hospitals for military purposes must also end.
'I ask the Council to again remind all parties to the conflict of their responsibilities under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and to ensure that all those responsible for violations are held to account,'he stated.
The UN official also noted that the Transitional authorities’ inability to curb widespread Seleka human rights abuses and violations against Christians over the past year contributed to the gradual transformation of local self-defense groups, the anti-Balaka, into a full-blown rebellion.
'As a result of its predominantly Muslim composition, Seleka abuses against the Christian populations in CAR were quickly interpreted as a religious conflict pitting Muslims against Christians,' he added.
'On the other hand, the frustration of Muslim communities in the CAR is the result of years of marginalization by the successive governments since the country’s independence over 50 years ago.
'For instance, while the Muslim community represents an estimated 20 per cent of the total population of CAR, no Muslim holidays are observed officially by the country.' Mr. Feltman said.
He also said: 'For the first time in CAR’s history, people have felt obliged on account of their religion to leave the country for fear for their lives, and several nearby countries, including Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, have repatriated tens
of thousands of their citizens, the vast majority of them Muslims'.