UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced concern Friday over the “widespread instability” and attacks on UN troops in the Central African Republic, which has been wracked by renewed sectarian violence since last month.
One of the world’s poorest nations, the Central African Republic has been struggling to recover from a three-year civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias that started after the 2013 overthrow of leader Francois Bozize.
A new flare-up of sectarian violence since the beginning of May has forced tens of thousands to flee conflict-ravaged areas.
“I am concerned by the widespread instability and repeated violations of human rights in the Central African Republic, as well as by the attacks targeting United Nations peacekeeping forces in the southeast of the country,” Guterres wrote in a report detailing UN activities in CAR.
Six UN peacekeepers were killed last month in the border city of Bangassou near the Democratic Republic of Congo and the surrounding region, and violence has spread to other nearby towns.
The United Nations has 10,000 troops and 2,000 civilians serving in its MINUSCA mission there.
“The current trend of unrest is of the highest concern to the humanitarian community,” the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said in its monthly bulletin in May.
OCHA said “clashes have taken an increasingly religious and ethnic connotation,” which it called “alarming”.
It said that the number of internally displaced people is now over half a million for the first time since August 2014, while a further 400,000, out of a population of 4.5 million, are in neighbouring countries.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also expressed concern over the renewed violence, fearing it could spread to the central city of Bambari, about 250 kilometres (150 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui.
Internally displaced people “represent already 60 percent of the population and residents worry that the violence engulfing the cities of Bangassou and Bria since early May in the form of brutal massacres could soon spread to Bambari,” MSF said in a statement.
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