IOM has condemned the resurgence of violence in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). At least 36 people have reportedly been killed since Saturday 26 September and another 100 wounded.
In the course of the events, the IOM office in Bangui, a two-building compound where 76 staffers used to work until last Friday, was completely looted. Four IOM vehicles also were stolen, but not the agency’s sole armored vehicle, apparently because its driver had kept the key.
Additionally, two female IOM staffers — one from Germany and the other from the US — had to be evacuated over the weekend by US Marines from the private residence they share. The Marines were summoned after IOM’s chief of mission in Bangui learned rioters were nearby. The two women are safe today in a new location.
The resurgence of violence followed the killing of a young Muslim man — reportedly a motorbike taxi driver — whose body was discovered near the Mosq Ali Baboro in the 3rd arrondissement. Muslims then were said to have attacked a nearby Christian neighbourhood. Thousands of people have now reportedly fled to displacement camps.
The situation in Bangui remains volatile and unpredictable. Armed groups have looted the compounds of several international agencies and NGOs in the city. According to IOM staff, the heavily armed groups intimidated the security forces, who did not intervene. Barricades also were erected by local people.
“The attackers were heavily armed, so the security forces in many instances simply observed the looting,” said IOM Chief of Mission Torsten Haschenz. “The gangs have apparently also recruited youngsters form the neighbourhood to assist them.”
The MINUSCA UN peacekeepers, together with the French Sangaris forces, are now patrolling Bangui and extracting UN and NGO staff from their homes. Many no longer feel safe with the spread of the fighting. A 6.00 pm to 6.00 am curfew has been declared by CAR Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun.
“These developments are tragic and have really set back the progress towards peace that had been made over the past 18 months,” said Haschenz.
Since March 2013, the country has been recovering from violent conflict which has affected all communities. The upsurge of violence comes as the transitional government, led since January 2014 by President Catherine Samba-Panza, prepares to hold the elections on October 18. When the violence broke out the President was attending the UN General Assembly in New York. She has since returned to Bangui.