As leaders meet, report describes chaos in Central African Republic

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LONDON — As European and African leaders were ending a two-day summit meeting in Brussels, fresh evidence emerged Thursday of the bloodletting that has defied their ability to prevent the Central African Republic from descending into deeper chaos, prompting calls for a more powerful peacekeeping force to be deployed there.

Two days after the European Union said it had finalized details of a 1,000-member force to augment a total of 8,000 French and African peacekeepers, a report by Human Rights Watch documented more killings in remote areas by both Christian and Muslim militias.

In episodes in the southwest of the country, the report said, Christian militias known as anti-balaka had killed 72 Muslim men and boys, some as young as 9, in two attacks in February in the village of Guen. Days later, fighters from the Seleka, whose chaotic rule in the Central African Republic collapsed in January, joined with cattle herders to slaughter 19 people in the village of Yakongo 20 miles away.

“These horrendous killings show that the French and African Union peacekeeping deployment is not protecting villages from these deadly attacks,” said Lewis Mudge, a researcher for the organization. “The Security Council shouldn’t waste another minute in authorizing a United Nations peacekeeping mission with the troops and capacity to protect the country’s vulnerable people.”

He added: “Peacekeepers are providing security in the main towns, but smaller communities in the southwest are left exposed.”

The Human Rights Watch report followed an assessment by the United Nations on Tuesday that the fighting had killed 60 people and injured more than 100 in the past 10 days.

The violence has forced almost 640,000 people to flee their homes, including more than 200,000 in Bangui, the capital. More than 80,000, mostly Muslims, have fled to neighboring countries.

“We are deeply concerned about the desperate plight of the people of the Central African Republic,” Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, said in Brussels on Wednesday, adding that he would “urge all countries to strongly consider providing badly needed additional troops and police and providing funding and support.”

The summit brought together the European Union and many members of the African Union for their first formal encounter since a gathering in Libya in 2010, before the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi. The meeting was supposed to cover issues such as trade, immigration and the assertive role China is playing in African economies once dominated by Europe’s former colonial powers, but it was overshadowed by the chaos in the Central African Republic and lingering postcolonial sensitivities.


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