More than 5,000 dead in C. African Republic

Published 10:03 am Friday, September 12, 2014

GUEN, Central African Republic — More than 5,000 people have died in sectarian violence in Central African Republic since December, according to an Associated Press tally, suggesting that a U.N. peacekeeping mission approved months ago is coming too late for thousands.

The AP found at least 5,186 people were killed in fighting between Muslims and Christians, based on a count of bodies and numbers gathered from survivors, priests, imams and aid workers in more than 50 of the hardest-hit communities. That’s more than double the death toll of at least 2,000 cited by the United Nations in April, when it approved the mission. There has been no official count since.

U.N. peacekeepers prepare to take over from African forces on Monday, bringing about 2,000 extra troops to the country. It will fall short of the almost 7,000 more that were authorized in April, with the rest expected by early 2015. Yet violence in the Central African Republic has only spread since.

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“The international community said it wanted to put a stop to the genocide that was in the making. But months later, the war has not stopped,” said Joseph Bindoumi, president of the Central African Human Rights League. “On the contrary, it has gotten worse.”

The U.N. is not recording civilian deaths on its own, unlike in Iraq or Afghanistan, and has cited figures gathered by the local Red Cross.

It has taken months simply to gather troops from different countries for the mission launch on Sept. 15, especially with poor infrastructure in landlocked terrain, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General.

“Mobilizing troops for peacekeeping mission takes time because it’s not like they’re waiting in New York for us,” Dujarric said Wednesday. “We have to go knock on doors for troops, for equipment, helicopters…”

Many deaths in this country of about 4.6 million were never officially counted, especially in a vast, remote swath of the west that is still dangerous and can barely be reached in torrential rains.