A United Nations expert has warned the current unrest in the Central African Republic puts the country at a "high risk" of genocide. UN envoys, meanwhile, have urged a stronger military mission there.
Adama Dieng, the UN's chief special adviser on genocide prevention, told the Security Council on Wednesday the Central African Republic was at a "high risk of crimes against humanity and genocide."
More than half of the country's 4.6 million people are in need of assistance and almost 1 million have been forced to flee their homes since the mostly-Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in a March coup. The unrest has sparked a period of unprecedented religious violence between Muslims and Christians in one of the world's poorest nations.
"The level of hatred between these communities shocked me," Dieng said, adding there were reports of summary executions, mutilation and sexual violence among the "widespread and massive" human rights violations.
'Unprecedented' child brutality
"The impact of the conflict on children has been dramatic with unprecedented levels of brutality," said the UN's envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui. "Children have been directly attacked, maimed, killed and beheaded."
She added that as many of 6,000 children may be part of armed groups.
"They have been manipulated by both sides and divided along religious lines," said Zerrougui.
Restoring peace will be difficult "without addressing the current culture of impunity," said Dieng.
Dieng said the current size of the African force, known as MISCA, is not large enough to deal with the problem. Only around 4,000 of the promised 6,000 African troops have been deployed, mostly in the capital Bangui.
"There is an urgent need for the full deployment of MISCA peacekeepers as soon as possible."
The UN officials did, however, welcome the recent European Union approval of around 500 troops to assist the approximately 1,600 French soldiers, as well as African troops, currently fighting in the country.
The UN does not currently have a peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is slated to report next month on potentially transforming the international troops currently fighting in the country into a peacekeeping force within six months.
dr/ccp (AP, AFP, Reuters)