It has been a year now since a mostly Muslim rebel coalition staged a coup in Central African Republic, and a campaign of looting and killing that followed.
It has prompted a violent backlash from Christian militias. Thousands of people have died with atrocities and killings committed by both sides, and there are new warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Addressing a news conference in the capital Bangui, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said: “The inter-communal hatred remains at a terrifying level, as evidenced by the extraordinarily vicious nature of the killings. This has become a country where people are not just killed, they are tortured, mutilated, burned and dismembered.”
The UN says almost a million people are displaced within Central African Republic, or seeking safety in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon, representing nearly a quarter of the population.
During a World Food Programme visit, executive director Ertharin Cousin warned: “The people who have been affected by the crisis here in the Central African Republic are not only being forgotten, they are now being ignored and we cannot allow children to go hungry, we cannot miss the planting season while the world ignores the people of CAR.”
A growing number of peacekeepers are being sent to the country – but as yet, they have been unable to stop the downward spiral of violence. France has committed 2,000 soldiers; there are some 6,000 soldiers in the African Union’s peacekeeping mission, known as Misca – which translates as International Support Mission in Central African Republic; while the European Union has contributed 1,000 soldiers.
The UN has proposed a 12,000 strong force, which would have a more robust mandate, with an initial focus on protecting civilians – but it could be up to six months before they’re on the ground.
So are more peacekeepers the answer? And can the international community do more to help, or does it have other priorities?
Presenter: Jane Dutton
Guests: Florent Geel – Africa director for the International Federation for Human Rights
James Schneider – editor of the online magazine Think Africa Press
Louis Keumayou – president of the Pan-African Press Association