About a thousand people were killed over two days in the Central African Republic, according to Amnesty International, which said that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by all parties to the conflict.
“Crimes that have been committed include extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies, intentional destruction of religious buildings such as mosques, and the forced displacement of massive numbers of people,” Christian Mukosa, Amnesty’s Central Africa expert, said in a statement issued on Thursday after a two-week mission to the country.
CAR has been reeling in sectarian violence since December 5 which started in the capital, Bangui, with an early morning attack by Christian militiamen from the Anti-Balaka group who went door to door, killing at least 60 Muslims.
A Muslim rebel group, the de facto government forces known as the Seleka, retaliated against Christians by killing nearly 1,000 men in two days, including a small number of women and children.
The days that followed the initial burst of violence in Bangui, human rights violations and abuses continued at a staggering pace, Amnesty said.
The violence prompted hundreds Central Africans to flee their homes. According to Amnesty, a total of 614,000 people have been displaced across the country, including 189,000 in Bangui alone, about a quarter of the city’s population.
Human rights Watch has earlier estimated the total number of people who have been displaced in Bangui to be about 210,000 over the past two weeks.
Despite the deployment of a 1,600-strong French force to act with the African Union-led forces on the ground, violence, killings and looting have been reported.
“There can be no prospect of ending the cycle of violence until the militias are disarmed and there is proper and effective protection for the thousands of civilians at risk in the country,” Mukosa said in the statement.
“Residential neighbourhoods must be made safe as an urgent priority in order to allow people to go back to their homes and resume their normal lives.”
Citing revenge attacks that were planned on those who have been disarmed to date, the human rights watchdog stressed on the necessity of accompanying any disarmament process with effective physical protection measures, particularly in crisis hotspots such as the PK5, Miskine and Combattant neighbourhoods.
“The international community has an important role to play in the Central African Republic, ensuring peacekeeping forces are deployed with all haste and are given the resources they need to prevent even greater bloodshed,” Mukosa said.
European nations including Poland, Britain, Spain and Belgium have provided various forms of assistance on the crisis in the CAR. However, deployed French troops are not militarily supported by any other European army in the CAR.
The complete absence of justice and accountability for these crimes has led to a downward spiral of revenge killings and to deepening inter-communal hatred and mistrust.
“The continuing violence, the extensive destruction of property, and the forced displacement of the population in Bangui are feeding enormous anger, hostility and mistrust,” Mukosa said.