‘Unhappily they [rebels] came and there are a lot of people who are dead. They came and stripped us of all our resources, our goods and all that we had. They attacked our children, our young people, and they exterminated them.’ said Julienne Yasso, victim of the Central African Republic armed conflict.
Julienne Yasso is only one of the thousands of civilians affected by a wave of killings and widespread looting in the Central African Republic, where a sectarian armed conflict erupted almost a year ago.
Now the United Nations and NGOs are warning that the episodes of violence could escalate into genocide if the international community fails to act.
In one of the poorest countries in the world, more than a million people have fled their homes. Over a thousand civilians were killed last December alone in the capital, Bangui.
‘The situation in CAR is not a situation that has been forgotten over the last couple of years, it’s a situation that has simply been ignored. And the needs in both South Sudan and CAR are huge and the damages, specially in the food security sector and agriculture, are substantial and therefore they require, not only international media attention but also international donor support. But the main issues for the moment in both countries are stabilisation and peace.’ the Food and Agriculture Organization’s director of emergencies, Dominique Burgeon, told EURACTIV.
The former French colony descended into chaos after a Muslim rebel coalition overthrew the democratically elected government, spurring revenge attacks by a Christian militia.
NGOs say that the violence has affected the country’s agricultural sector, which over 80% of the working population relies on.
According to the European Commission, food insecurity has risen to affect more than one million people.
‘In CAR there is no doubt that there is a substantial need for food assistance. Food assistance should be between now and the next harvest. But in the meantime, we need to make sure that farmers who are returning to their field, because we have noticed that a number of farmers living in IDP camps are sometimes going back to their fields for the day, are provide with the means to crop the land: seeds and tools, considering that the tools and all their productive assets have been looted or destroyed.’ said Burgeon.
EU foreign ministers reached a political agreement on Monday to send up to 1,000 soldiers to help stabilise the country. They are set to arrive in CAR by the end of February.
This will be the EU’s first major army operation in six years.
‘Today ministers agreed the crisis management concept for this operation. It would work in the capital Bangui area for up to six months to assist existing international efforts in protection of the people.’ said EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton.
In addition to the peacekeeping troops, the EU and the UN, as well as other international donors, pledged €366 million to the CAR on Monday.