A senior UN official has given warning of the risk of genocide in the Central African Republic without a more robust international response to communal bloodshed in which at least eight more people have died.
John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on Thursday that the crisis was foreseeable and stemmed from many years of international neglect.
“The stakes are extremely high,” he said after returning from a five-day trip to the country.
“It has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere in places like Rwanda and Bosnia,” he said.
“The elements are there, the seeds are there for a genocide, there’s no question about that.”
The former French colony descended into chaos after a mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, seized power in March, unleashing a wave of killings and looting that spurred revenge attacks by Christian militia known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete).
More than a million people have been displaced by the violence since Seleka installed their leader Michel Djotodia as interim president.
Up to 1,000 people were killed last month alone in the capital Bangui, prompting neighbouring countries to evacuate more than 30,000 of their citizens.
However, with swift intervention the country’s dire situation could be reversed, Ging said.
“This one is not a hopeless case,” he said. “The consequences will be dramatic if we don’t act immediately and effectively.”
There has been relative calm since Djotodia resigned last week under intense international pressure, but sporadic violence has persisted in Bangui.
On Thursday, a spokesman for a 15,000-strong group of anti-balaka criticised the interim government and threatened a return to violence if it was not overhauled.
CAR is designated by the UN as one of the top three global humanitarian emergencies, along with Syria and the Philippines. But a UN appeal has received only six percent of a $247m target.
France hurriedly sent some 1,600 troops to its former colony in December.
The deployment of Rwandan troops, the first of whom arrived aboard a US military aircraft on Thursday, will increase the African Union contingent to more than 5,000 peacekeepers this month.