This week the UN warned of the risk of genocide once again in the Central African Republic, saying the situation has deteriorated in recent months.
Last week, dozens lost their lives in clashes between armed groups in the south-eastern town of Gambo, about 75km from Bangassou, where recent violence has been most intense.
Six Red Cross volunteers were among the victims – one a Baptist pastor, Joseph Tokon of a church in Mabo, 30km from Gambo. He had gone to Gambo to work as a medical aid worker. In his fifties, Tokon left a wife and seven children.
“We are appalled by the news of the death of our fellow volunteers,” said Antoine Mbao-Bogo, president of the Central African Red Cross. “We call on all parties to take steps to spare the civilian population, and to respect all humanitarian workers.”
According to local media, 30 have been killed, but a local pastor, anonymous for security reasons, told World Watch Monitor the violence claimed more than 80 civilian lives. Reports say most of the victims were women and children and that many patients in a Gambo health facility had their throats slit.
Local authorities blamed the Gambo violence on a faction of the mostly-Muslim Seleka rebels, who now call themselves the UPC. The fighters battled against a self-defence group that has arisen in the area in an effort to ward off the UPC and other armed fighters, according to Al-Jazeera.
The attack is the latest of a series in and around Bangassou, 700km east of the capital, where nine UN peacekeepers have been killed this year alone. Now one of CAR’s top three religious leaders has backed up the call by Bishop Aguirre Muños of Bangassou for the withdrawal of the Moroccan troops of the UN peacekeeping mission.
“The people are witnesses and victims of the activity in the city of the Moroccan contingent of the UN peacekeepers,” said Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, as Fides reported. Layama is one of the Inter-faith platform leaders, who have all striven to avert civil war over the past four years.
“The people want the contingent to leave Bangassou because it has failed in its duty to protect civilians. These troops do little or nothing when the militiamen attack. Some say the Moroccan military are the cause of several cases of murder because they shoot civilians point-blank, calling them militia,” the imam said.
The Central African Republic currently has around 12,000 UN peacekeepers.