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Central African Republic: Crucial to prevent descent into communal violence - Zeid

GENEVA  – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday expressed deep alarm at the volatile situation in the Central African Republic, particularly given the worrying hate speech and incitement to violence on the basis of religion, as well as the recent killings and attacks in Bangui.

On May 1, in the PK5 neighbourhood of Bangui, at least 22 people were killed and 185 others injured after an armed group, led by Nimeri Matar Djamous (nicknamed “Force”), whipped up violence and attacked a Church in response to a Government attempt to arrest one of their leaders. This triggered revenge attacks by the Christian community, including the lynching to death of three Muslim individuals. Attacks continued into last weekend, with houses, hospitals, churches and mosques in many localities in Bangui attacked.

“Last week’s violence in Bangui demonstrates just how volatile the situation is, and how easily crowds can be manipulated into angry mobs ready to attack their neighbours on the basis of their religion,” Zeid said. “With hate speech and incitement to violence so prevalent in media and social media, I fear that spontaneous eruptions of violence like that of May 1 could become more widespread and difficult to contain.”

The High Commissioner called on the Government of the Central African Republic and the international community to be extremely vigilant and to take serious measures to curb the incitement to violence on communal grounds. “Perpetrators of killings and violent attacks should be held individually criminally responsible so that an entire community is not tarred with the same brush,” the High Commissioner said. “This will make it more difficult for opportunistic armed groups to manipulate angry mobs into revenge attacks against an entire community. Central Africans know all too well what can happen if communal sentiments are stoked into violence.”* High Commissioner Zeid called on all relevant national and international actors to take decisive action to effectively prevent future outbreaks of violence and human rights violations. 

The High Commissioner stressed that this recent violence must not be allowed to undermine the peace process facilitated by the African Union.