UNITED NATIONS— Senior United Nations officials are warning that the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic continues to deteriorate, and that if not stopped, there is a risk of genocide in the country.
Four senior U.N. officials Wednesday briefed the Security Council on developments following their mission to the country last month.
Adama Dieng, the secretary-general’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said they received reports and testimony from victims and witnesses of shocking violence against innocent civilians.
“Incitement to commit violence on the basis of religion or ethnicity, and deliberate and targeted attacks against civilians based on their identity, are both factors that indicate a high risk both of crimes against humanity and of genocide," said Dieng.
Fighting in the country has pitted ex-Seleka, who are mainly Muslim, against anti-Balaka militias, which are primarily Christian, turning the two communities violently against one another.
Dieng said the presence of the African-led peacekeeping force known as MISCA, which is supported by French troops, has greatly contributed to protecting civilians, but its resources and capacities are limited. He urged African countries to contribute troops to the mission so it can quickly reach its authorized troop strength of 6,000.
The U.N’s top official on children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, warned that CAR is “trapped in a spiral of vengeance,” which will undermine trust between communities “for generations to come.”
She focused on the impact of the crisis on the country’s children, saying the two sides have actively recruited children and forced them to commit atrocities. As many as 6,000 are now child soldiers, nearly a half-million are displaced, and others have suffered horrific abuses.
“Children have been directly attacked, maimed, killed and beheaded in Bangui, but also in Buar, Bossangoa and Bozoum," said Zerrougui.
The U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, said rape continues to be widespread. Last year, the United Nations recorded at least 4,530 cases of sexual violence in several regions perpetrated by armed men, largely believed to belong to Seleka.
“Victims are afraid to come forward to report these crimes due to the continued presence of elements of armed groups in communities and the absence of law and order," said Bangura.
On the humanitarian front, deputy emergency relief coordinator Kyung-Wha Kang said that aspect of the crisis is deepening. More than half the country’s population - 2.5 million people - is in need of aid. She said this effort is chronically underfunded and the U.N. requires more than $550 million for its humanitarian response this year.