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UN warns of genocide in Central African Republic

Lewis Sanders IV
August 8, 2017

The UN's aid chief has alerted member states of the "early warning signs of genocide" amid increasing violence. The African nation has seen the worst sectarian violence since the overthrow of the government in 2013.

UN peacekeepers in CAR (AP Photo/Cassandra Vinograd)
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Vinograd

The Central African Republic risks plunging deeper into a humanitarian crisis if the international community fails to respond to growing violence, said UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien on Monday.

"Violence is intensifying, risking a repeat of the devastating destructive crisis that gripped the country four years ago," O'Brien told a special UN briefing. "The early warning signs of genocide are there. We must act now."

Read more: The forgotten war in the Central African Republic

Sectarian violence has plagued the nation since 2013, when an alliance of Muslim-majority rebel groups known as the Seleka overthrew then-President Francois Bozize.

The insurrection triggered reprisal attacks from "anti-Balaka" militias made up of Christian and animist groups. While efforts to stabilize the country tempered violence in the aftermath of the putsch, fighting has flared in recent months.

Violence between armed groups left roughly 300 people dead and 100,000 others displaced in May, marking the worst flare-up since the overthrow of the government.

"We cannot underestimate the dangerous spread of military groups in CAR, some of which have the intention to ethnically cleanse," said O'Brien.

Central African Republic 'forgotten' crisis

'Much worse'

The UN aid chief told member state representatives at the briefing that the crisis in CAR cannot be adequately dealt with when its mission is underfunded.

Only 24 percent of the $497 million (421 million euros) requested this year have been given to the mission in CAR. O'Brien noted that continuing to underfund humanitarian operations will likely exacerbate the situation on the ground.

"The real risk is much, much worse as confessional and ethnic militias rampage through villages, cleansing them of people not of their type," said O'Brien.

The UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) comprises 12,870 military staff and police personnel. It is authorized until November 15.