Ethnic cleansing taking place in the Central African Republic

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Children wait for water at a school where they have taken shelter from the increasingly brutal sectarian violence in the Central African Republic. Photo: IRIN/Hannah McNeish

Civilians in the Central African Republic are facing extreme violence with rebel groups carrying out ethnic cleansing with impunity in the north and western parts of the country, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The agency says thousands of Muslim civilians continue to flee the country to escape violence being unleashed by the mainly Christian backed anti-Balaka rebel group.

UNHCR says the number of international and African Union peacekeepers in the country is too small to provide adequate protection to the civilian population.

Philippe Leclerc a civilian protection specialist with UNHCR says the violence being witnessed the CAR is comparable to the violence unleashed on the Muslim population in Srebrenica Bosnia Herzegovina in 1995.

Mr Leclerc who has been working in the CAR over the past two months, says mediation and reconciliation among the various communities in CAR is still possible but adds that the international community needs to support the new government to restore the rule of law.

"Ethno religious cleansing is going on in the western and northern parts of the country, targeting Muslims. It's very clear people are trapped trying to save their lives. More of this can be prevented through mediation and the presence of international forces. It's not that people are not willing to escape but it's extremely difficult for them to find a safe passage. More and more the state is re-exercising its powers but with a lot of difficulty as very limited police forces and judges are in place. The security is provided by the international forces be it the French contingent as well as the 6,000 MISCA African Union forces, but are not enough to enable the protection of civilians."

The African Union has deployed 6,000 peacekeepers in the CAR while the French government has sent 1,600 troops.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1.56″

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