Central African Republic soldiers ‘lynch Seleka rebel’

A government soldier puts his knife away after allegedly taking part in the lynching in Bangui. Photo: 5 February 2014

A group of uniformed government soldiers took part in the killing, eyewitnesses say

Central African Republic soldiers have lynched a man accused of being a rebel, eyewitnesses allege, as violence continues to afflict the nation.

The man was stabbed and beaten to death and then his body burned in the capital, Bangui.

It happened just moments after interim President Catherine Samba-Panza finished speaking at an army ceremony.

Separately, reports say rebels from the Seleka group are trying to re-group in the north-east of the country.

The militants were engaging in “a new wave of horrific attacks against civilians”, Human Rights Watch said. It added that in some cases Seleka were being helped by Chadian peacekeepers.

The Central African Republic – one of Africa’s poorest nations – has descended into religious violence since Seleka seized power in a coup last March.

Thousands of people have been killed in since then.

The violence between the mostly Muslim rebel group and Christian militias – widely knows as anti-balaka (anti-machete) – has continued even though President Samba-Panza was inaugurated last month and Seleka leader Michel Djotodia resigned as part of regional efforts to stabilise the country.

‘Burning corpse’

The body of the lynched man is dragged on the streets in Bangui. Photo: 5 February 2014The victim’s body was dragged on the streets in Bangui and then set on fire

Eyewitnesses in Bangui said a crowd accused the man of being a Seleka member, before members of the Central African Armed Forces (Faca) stabbed and kicked him and pelted him with rocks.

“They proceeded to mutilate his body and then set the body on fire,” Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director, who was at the scene, told the BBC.

“It was yet another horrific scene – one of many we’ve seen over the last few days in the capital Bangui.”

Mr Bouckaert said that as he was taking pictures to document what he described as a “crime”, a group of uniformed soldiers “rushed to the body to pose smiling with the burning corpse in front of us”.

He added that African Union peacekeeping troops at the scene were “unable or unwilling to intervene to stop the killing”.

A French contingent later arrived and fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd. The French then guarded the body until members of the Red Cross appeared.

Mr Bouckaert said that even after the French troops arrived, one local man walked up to them “casually, holding the severed leg of the lynching victim”.

UN warning

Just minutes earlier, President Samba-Panza had been addressing the soldiers at the ceremony attended by thousands of military.

“Within a month, I would like to fully secure the greater part of the country, and I aim to stick to my word,” she said.

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“At a certain point, everyone will be held responsible for their acts, I am warning troublemakers who continue to sow disorder in the country,” she pledged.

Seleka rebels are blamed for a series of deadly attacks on Christians in the country in recent months.

There have also been widespread reports of revenge attacks since the rebels withdrew from Bangui in January.

France, the former colonial power, has 1,600 troops in the country, working with some 4,000 troops from African countries to help end the violence which has seen about a million people – 20% of the population – flee their homes.

In December, the UN said it believed at least 10,000 troops may be required in any force sent to end the unrest.

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