Last updateVen, 30 Jan 2015 2pm

New York: Official warns on 'ethno-religious cleansing' in CAR

New York, US - Mr. Philip Leclerc, the officer-in-charge of the protection cluster of the the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the Central African Republic (CAR), has warned that 'ethno-religious cleansing' is being carried out in the country.

A UN statement obtained by PANA in New York on Saturday quoted Mr. Leclerc as saying that 'it is most important now for mediation to be cultivated among the communities, and for more international forces to be deployed to protect civilians'.

He noted that it was still possible for communities to continue to live together, but intensive mediation was necessary for that to happen.

'What is most important at the moment is that mediation take place in many areas across the country,' he said.

The UN official, however, said that if mediation failed, the UN had no other possibility but to evacuate groups to safer places, or secure their safe passage to the north, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad where some 288,000 people have taken refuge.

Mr. Leclerc said people were trapped and trying to save their lives amid escalating violence in which Muslims, in particular, were being targeted.

'It is extremely important that international forces be increased so that people can be saved,' he said, noting that the State was increasingly re-exercising its power, and security was also provided as a result of the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and the French mission, known as Sangaris.

He added that the violence in CAR reminded him of that which engulfed Gorazde and Srebrenica in 1990s, stressing that, 'if there are more international forces, there would certainly be fewer human rights violations and fewer reasons for people to flee'.

The conflict in CAR erupted when Seleka rebels launched attacks in December 2012 and has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as mainly Christian militias known as anti-balaka (anti-machete) have taken up arms.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and 2.2 million, about half the population, need humanitarian aid.

Pana 02/03/2014