Africa

Central African Republic violence worst in years – MSF

DAKAR (Reuters) – Violence against civilians in Central African Republic (CAR), including summary executions and mutilations, is reaching levels not seen since the height of its years-long conflict, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said.

The country descended into chaos when a mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance ousted then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking reprisals from Christian militias. Religion has played a waning role as splinter groups now clash over control of territory and resources.

Recent violence has been concentrated in four prefectures in the center and east, where the government and a 13,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission have struggled to contain the bloodshed, the medical charity said.

“Our teams have witnessed summary executions and have found mutilated bodies left exposed to terrorize populations,” Rene Colgo, the deputy head of MSF’s mission in CAR, said in a statement released late on Wednesday.

Fighting has spread to parts of the country previously considered stable but where rival armed groups are now battling for control of towns and areas with gold and diamond mines.

Some 100,000 people were displaced between September 2016 and February 2017 amid the renewed clashes, according to the United Nations, and MSF is now treating trauma victims at clinics intended to provide healthcare to rural communities.

“The Central African Republic is spiraling into levels of violence that have not been seen since the peak of the conflict in 2014,” said MSF representative Emmanuel Lampaert.

One in five Central Africans is currently displaced and around 2.2 million people, half the total population, need humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.

The United States on Wednesday imposed financial sanctions against two militia leaders – one a Muslim rebel chief and the other a Christian militia leader – accused of collaborating on plans to destabilize CAR.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Joe Bavier and Tom Heneghan)

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