'Catastrophe of unspeakable proportions' in C. Africa: UNHCRAgence France-Presse . Bangui / New Age Online
The head of the UN's refugee agency said Wednesday he had witnessed ‘a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions’ during his visit to the Central African Republic.
‘Massive ethno-religious cleansing is continuing. Shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterised this violence,’ Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.
He also said the country's new government is incapable of effectively protecting its citizens.
His statement clashed awkwardly with a speech on Wednesday by the CAR's new transitional president, Catherine Samba Panza, who vowed war against a mostly Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) militia whose recent attacks have led to a mass exodus of Muslims.
‘We are going to go to war against the anti-balaka,’ she told a crowd in the town of Mbaiki, south of the capital Bangui.
‘They think that because I'm a woman, I'm weak. But now the anti-balaka who want to kill, will themselves be hunted,’ she said.
The anti-balaka emerged last year after a mostly Muslim rebel group seized control of the country. They have gone on the rampage in Bangui and elsewhere, largely targeting Muslims, since the rebels were ousted from power last month.
During her speech, Samba Panza was joined on stage by French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
France has grown increasingly strident in its calls for action against the anti-balaka, fearing that the violence could lead to partition of the country.
But the UN refugee agency said much will be needed to stem the attacks, and spoke of ‘dramatic underfunding’ of relief operations.
‘The international community must come together for a significant and immediate increase of the forces and police on the ground,’ said Guterres.
‘Our resources are overwhelmed and ability to do more hampered. The Central African Republic is falling through the cracks of international attention. This cannot be allowed to happen.’
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