The Central African Republic has been scarred by coups, wars and instability. But a conflict pitting Muslims and Christians against each other is reaching new levels of violence.  

It is characterised by the widespread rape and killing of civilians, the burning and looting of homes and a seemingly endless cycle of reprisal attacks.

The UN is now faced with the daunting challenge of breaking that cycle as it takes over responsibility for restoring - and keeping the peace.

Mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March last year but failed to prevent some fighters from going on the rampage.

That led to a counter-offensive by Christian militias, with both sides deliberately targeting each other's civilian communities.

New figures estimate that more than 5,000 people have been killed since December, while around one in four of the population - that is almost a million people - have been forced from their homes.

The African Union has had 6,500 soldiers in CAR since last July, while France sent 2,000 soldiers in December.

The UN has now sent 1,500 troops as it takes over authority from the AU, and expects to oversee a total of 12,000 soldiers by the end of 2015.

But with religious violence running rife, is there any peace to keep?

Presenter: Hazem Sika

Guests:

James Schneider - editor of Think Africa Press.

Lewis Mudge - researcher for Human Rights Watch - Africa Division.

Emmanuel Dupuy - president of the Institute for Prospective and Security in Europe.

Live Box 201493123623889276

Source: Al Jazeera