UN urges CAR leaders to stop stoking violence on the basis of religion

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Displaced civilians find shelter in a church in Bangui.© UNHCR/L.Wiseberg

United Nations Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay says political leaders in the Central African Republic were manipulating religious differences in the country to incite civilians into violence.

The high commissioner says these developments are extremely worrying and should ring alarm bells around the world for sustained and urgent efforts to be taken to prevent the country from plunging into disaster.

She says a UN human rights monitoring team in CAR has been documenting human rights violations committed in recent months including killings, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, attacks on hospitals, destruction of property and targeting of individuals on the basis of their religion.

The high commissioner says the infiltration of militia groups by armed elements from neighbouring countries is likely to set the crisis on a dangerous path which may be difficult to control.

Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights office (OHCHR).

"The High Commissioner also urged all sides to come together and resolve the situation in the country through dialogue. The only way to prevent large-scale suffering in the country is for all sides to renounce violence and move forward through constructive dialogue. The High Commissioner warned that religious differences were being manipulated by political leaders, with deadly consequences. Too often in history we have seen the political manipulation of religious and ethnic differences result in horrific violations and long-term damage to the social fabric of a country. I urge leaders at both national and local levels in the Central African Republic to stop stoking violence on the basis of religion. We have seen young Muslims take it upon themselves to protect churches, and churches are serving as safe havens for internally displaced people, regardless of their religious backgrounds. Such developments are extremely encouraging and I call on all religious and community leaders to redouble their efforts to ensure that entire communities are not vilified in the dangerous cycle of violence and reprisals that we have been witnessing."

Ms Shamdasani says the Office of the High commissioner for human rights is in the process of constituting members of the Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic as mandated by the UN Security Council.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2’11″

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