The Central African Republic has announced a countrywide curfew from 10pm to 5am in a presidential decree read on state radio.
The announcement came late on Friday as the troubled nation spiralled into conflict, pitting the Muslim rebels who seized power in a coup earlier this year against the nation’s mostly Christian population.
Earlier this week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned in an interview that the nation is on the verge of genocide.
The country’s Christian president, Francois Bozize, fled the capital in March as the Seleka rebels overran the city.
Rebel leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself president, but since taking power he has been unable to control the rebels, who have run amok over the chronically poor nation. The fighters are accused of gruesome massacres.
One of the world’s poorest countries with a long history of chaos and coups, the Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a coalition of rebel groups joined forces and overthrew the president in March and put their leader in charge.
‘Looting, killings, rapes’
Since taking power, the Seleka rebels and their allies from neighboring Chad and Sudan have plunged the country into a state of near-anarchy.
They have been accused by human rights groups of committing scores of atrocities, of widespread looting, killings, rapes and conscription of child soldiers.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the UN Security Council to authorise international support to an existing African Union-led peace operation in the country and to permit emergency intervention from UN forces if needed.
So far, the African Union force has about 2,590 personnel on the ground, the majority in the capital, Bangui.