CAR Interim President leaves UN General Assembly to attend to Violence in Country

The interim President of Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, left the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday, to return home due to the worst violence in the capital of her country this year, two Western diplomats said.

It would be recalled that over 20 people have been killed and over 100 more injured in three days of intercommunal clashes in Bangui, a city secured by U.N. and French peacekeepers. The violence has sparked fears that Samba-Panza could be overthrown.

Earlier, hundreds of prisoners escaped from the main jail in the capital and U.N. peacekeepers fired warning shots to disperse thousands of protesters calling for the rearming of the army. At least one person was killed.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council condemned the violence.

Ban strongly condemned all acts of violence and calls for an immediate end to the unacceptable violence and retaliatory attacks. He urged the Central African Republic’s Transitional Authority to do everything within its means to prevent further violence.

The Security Council warned in a statement that it is still prepared to blacklist individuals and entities that undermine peace and stability in that country.

The clashes began on Saturday when the murder of a Muslim man sparked reprisals by Muslims on a Christian neighborhood and attacks by armed gangs on civilians.

Gunshots rang out on Monday night despite a curfew. Few ventured out during the day and Christian militia known as anti-balaka manned checkpoints.

Thousands marched to within 100 meters (300 feet) of the presidential palace to call for a bigger role for the army.

The army was sidelined when mostly Muslim northern rebels, known as Seleka, seized power in 2013. A U.N.-backed interim government is yet to rearm the army after officers were linked to the anti-balaka militia that conducted reprisals against Muslims.

Samba-Panza’s absence due to the meeting in New York and that of other leaders and senior U.N. officials with the MINUSCA peacekeeping force is one reason why the violence erupted, said a Western diplomat, adding that U.N. forces had not reacted quickly enough.

The U.S. State Department has also condemned the violence in a statement that has expressed support for Samba-Panza and her transitional government.

U.N. interim humanitarian coordinator Marc Vandenberghe said he was extremely worried by the loss of life.

Red Cross officials say a death toll was hard to establish because they have been prevented from entering neighborhoods by protesters and armed groups.

Private residences and offices for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and a medical charity were pillaged Sunday afternoon.

Central African Republic has been led by a transitional government since January 2014. Its citizens were expected to vote in presidential polls scheduled for Oct. 18 but now widely expected to be postponed.


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