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Africa

"More troops needed in CAR to disarm rebels," says Amnesty International

Although disarmament in the Central African Republic has begun, people are afraid to return to their homes. Given the size of the country, more troops are needed for this to succeed, says AI adviser Joanne Marina.

DW: A humanitarian crisis is looming over the Central African Republic. Tens of thousands of people have been seeking refuge in makeshift camps around the capital Bangui following a wave of massacres. The sectarian bloodshed erupted last week when a Christian militia group that opposes the Seleka rebels, who are in power in the country, attacked Bangui. More than 500 people have been killed over the last few days. Joanne Marina, you're in Bangui. Can you please tell us where you've been in the city and what you've been able to see?

Joanne Mariner: We've been travelling all over to a lot of camps for displaced people, and as you mentioned, there are tens of thousands of people who don't feel that they have the security to return to their homes. Most of them fled their homes fairly early in the morning on Thursday (12.12.2013), when the attack began. And because the violence continues, they just don't feel that it's safe to go home. In fact, some people who have tried to go home have been killed in their houses. So there's really an ongoing pattern of tit-for-tat violence, and there is still great hostility and great fear.

So there is concrete evidence of rights abuses?

There is a whole range of rights abuses, beginning with the most fundamental right, of course, which is the right to life.

France has sent in troops to disarm the rebels. What can you tell us about this disarmament process?

The disarmament began on Monday (09.12.2013), and from what I understand they have been able to obtain quite a number of weapons, including Kalashnikovs, some rocket launchers, grenades, hunting rifles, quite a lot of machetes. The problem is that this is a very, very armed society. Clearly, the violence is going on. Clearly, people have the arms to continue the violence. And the question is: Are the French, with their relatively small number of troops for this very large country, going to be successful in disarming an armed and angry population?

What is happening to the people who have been disarmed?

That's another problem. Because hostilities are running so high, there have been a couple of cases that I know of in which people who were disarmed were then lynched. If the population finds one of those men unarmed, that person is likely to be lynched. Another problem is the hostility against the Seleka has now generalized to hostility against the Muslim community overall.

From what you've seen, what do you think needs to be done to stop these abuses?

Certainly, the disarmament is key. There need to be more troops - ideally, an international force. And certainly, I think one of the key problems is that because the Chadian troops are seen as allied with the Seleka troops and seen as themselves complicit in the abuses, it should be troops from countries that are more neutral.

Joanne Mariner is a senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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