A senior crisis response adviser at the United Kingdom-based Amnesty International has expressed concern about the security situation in the Central African Republic following fierce clashes between rival armed groups in the capital, Bangui.
Joanne Mariner said it appears law and order has broken down in the city after the house of Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye was ransacked. Mr. Tiangaye, who is currently abroad, at an international conference, has called for France’s military intervention to help resolve the escalating security situation.
“[We] are extremely concerned about the security of the civilian population, because this is part of a larger pattern. The pattern is that the ex-Seleka forces [have] a record of attacking the civilian population in reprisal for attacks by these anti-government [groups] known as the anti-Balika forces. So, when they can catch the anti-Balika militants, they go after the people they believe support them, and they are very indiscriminate,” said Mariner.
Tiangaye’s call comes as the United Nations Security Council authorized French and African Union troops to use force to protected civilians.
Mariner said some of the armed groups are using child soldiers to carry out their violent activities.
“We have very credible information that the attack this morning was made up of a number of child soldiers with the teenagers aged 11 to 15,” said Mariner. “They were driven out of the city fairly early on, but on both sides there were very serious attacks on the population.”
Some observers say the security situation is forcing thousands of residents in Bangui to flee, sharply increasing the number of internally displaced people after the overthrow of President Francois Bozize last March.
Mariner said the latest wave of violence has created panic and raised tension among the civilian population, especially in the capital, Bangui.
“They are terrorized,” said Mariner. “People are staying indoors, locking their doors and there [are] reports of different forces going house to house looking for people and killing people.”
She said CAR citizens and other nationals are hopeful an international military can help end the wave of violence, protect civilians and to stabilize the country.
“There is really complete lawlessness here, and people are just hoping that international forces will arrive and restore order. But at this point we are again hearing gunfire, and there is just no control [over] armed groups,” said Mariner.
Meanwhile, CAR leader Michel Djotodia has reportedly called for a strong enforcement of a dusk to dawn curfew.
“There is an existing curfew that means that at 6 O’clock [pm] nobody is supposed to be out [in] the street, and he said that is going to be strictly enforced,” said Mariner. “But we are hearing quite a lot of gunfire and also heavy weaponry in the morning, it calmed down during the day, but now we are hearing gunfire again. So clearly the situation is not under control.”
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) plans to transition its forces in CAR to an AU-led mission of about 3,600 troops known as MISCA, in December. Mariner said the AU led troops have started arriving with some troops from neighboring Congo Republic.
Clottey interview with Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International crisis adviser