UN: Total breakdown in Central African Republic

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says there is a total breakdown in law and order in the Central African Republic more than four months after rebel groups united to oust longtime president Francois Bozize.

In a report to the Security Council circulated this week, the U.N. chief said increased divisions among the Seleka rebel fighters who overthrew Bozize have led to fights over looted or stolen goods and violent clashes that forced many civilians to seek refuge in the bush last month.

“Uncontrolled Seleka elements” have also been involved in looting, thefts, burglaries, rape and other forms of sexual violence and continue “to wreak havoc in the countryside,” Ban said.

The Security Council will discuss the Central African Republic on Wednesday.

During the period from May through July, Ban said human rights violations became more widespread and the humanitarian crisis in the country got worse, with all 4.6 million residents of the country affected by the conflict and about 1.6 million in dire need of assistance including protection, food, water, health care and shelter.

Landlocked Central African Republic has suffered numerous rebellions since independence from France. Bozize came to power in 2003 through a rebellion, and when he was forced into exile in late March, Michel Djotodia, a rebel fighter who helped form Seleka, declared himself president.

Ban said a new 34-member government of national unity was appointed on June 13, with Djotodia also taking the portfolio of minister of defense. Despite an African Union travel ban against Djotodia, Ban said he visited Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and Gabon during the last three months.

The secretary-general called on the prime minister and Djotodia “to work together to urgently bridge their differences which, if unaddressed, may jeopardize the progress made thus far and seriously aggravate the crisis in the country.”

Ban said the international community must act urgently to end the current plight of the people of the Central African Republic.

He urged the Security Council to consider sanctions or the establishment of a panel of experts to monitor the situation “to ensure there is no impunity for perpetrators of gross human rights violations.”

The secretary-general welcomed the African Union’s decision to establish a new peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic with 2,475 military personnel and 1,025 police, mainly composed of contingents already in the country under a regional arrangement. But he expressed serious concern at the government’s intention to integrate a significant number of Seleka elements into the country’s security and defense forces “without prior screening to determine their suitability.”

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