Fresh fighting in the Central African Republic should set off “loud alarm bells,” the United Nations human rights chief said Tuesday.
More than 100 people have been killed and thousands forced to flee their homes in the past week as fighting between Muslims and Christians spreads.
“The hard-earned relative calm in Bangui and some of the bigger towns in CAR risks being eclipsed by the descent of some rural areas into increasing violence,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said. “Defenseless civilians, as usual, [are] paying the highest price.”
Casualties include six U.N. peacekeepers killed when suspected Christian militia members attacked their base in Bangassou, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Security Council condemned the attack and sent out a reminder that targeting peacekeepers may be a war crime.
CAR has been tense since 2013 when Muslim fighters seized the capital and forced President Francois Bozize from power. Muslim militias began attacking Christians, and Christians formed militias to carry out violent reprisals, forcing thousands of Muslim civilians to flee for their lives.
The fighting has since spread to rural areas after being concentrated in cities and larger towns.
Dozens of marchers, mainly widows and orphans, have converged on Bangui, demanding a government crackdown on violence.
Prime Minister Simplice Mathieu Sarandji is promising them justice.