The prime minister of the Central African Republic has called for a pause in the country’s devastating violence so that the population can enjoy the football World Cup that starts in Brazil on Thursday.
Andre Nzapayeke said on Wednesday that the tournament, and the month of Ramadan that starts at the end of June, presented an opportunity to step back from the brutal attacks that have killed thousands over the past year.
Nzapayeke told a news conference in the capital Bangui that he wanted young people in particular to “fully enjoy” the event and warned them against taking part in violence.
“Those who are 16, if you waste this period, know that you will be 20 before the next cup comes along” the prime minister said on Wednesday.
“Take this opportunity that the world has offered to admire our stars,” he added, citing African heroes Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba, the AFP news agency reported.
The Central Africa Republic failed to make it to the World Cup finals in Brazil, losing in the second round of African qualifiers.
Nzapayeke described the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on June 28, as “a time of peace and love”.
The country has plunged into an unprecedented cycle of violence since a coup by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group in March 2013, and the emergence of a mostly Christian militia in response.
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee, with almost the entire Muslim population driven out of Bangui since Seleka was pushed out of power in January.