A prolonged conflict in the impoverished, mineral-rich Central African Republic has seen Christian and Muslim militias fighting as foreign troops struggle to keep peace.
The crisis in Central African Republic (CAR) began in late 2012, when Muslim Seleka rebels launched attacks that eventually overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize, installing Michel Djotodia (pictured). Djotodia resigned in Jan. 2014 amid a continuing conflict in which Christians and Muslims have committed violence.
"The deployment of a peacekeeping operation, if authorized, will take months. The people of the CAR do not have months to wait… We have the power to stop the killing and save the CAR from its current nightmare." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
France on Feb. 25 approved an extension to the country's military operation in CAR. The National Assembly voted 428-14 (with 21 abstentions) to authorize the mission to continue beyond its initial four-month mandate.
About a quarter of the population, almost one million people, has been displaced in the fighting, and the UN estimates about 2,000 have died from the conflict since March 2013.
"At this rate, if the targeted violence continues, there will be no Muslims left in much of the Central African Republic… People whose families have peacefully lived in the country for centuries are being forced to leave, or are fleeing the very real threat of violence against them." Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director
Half of the 1,600 French troops stationed in the capital Bangui started leaving by Feb. 18 to fan out across the country, setting up their headquarters in the town of Yaloke. The objective is to secure a strategic route west to Cameroon that passes through several embattled towns and provinces.
"My office has reviewed many reports detailing acts of extreme brutality by various groups and allegations of serious crimes being committed… efforts will be coordinated with those of the African Union and the United Nations in CAR." Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor
Catherine Samba-Panza on Jan. 20 was elected by the transitional parliament as the interim president of Central African Republic after Djotodia resigned. Samba-Panza, a Christian, was previously the mayor of the country's capital of Bangui.
"We are witnessing unprecedented levels of violence against children. More and more children are being recruited into armed groups, and they are also being directly targeted in atrocious revenge attacks." Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF Representative
The Afghan Taliban issued a statement Feb. 22 calling for an end to violence against Muslims in CAR. The group condemned "merciless killings" by "bloodthirsty militias" and urged the international community to intervene. The statement was a rare comment by the Taliban about a conflict it has no role in.
Former President Francois Bozize came to power in 2003 through a coup. The country has remained impoverished since independence from France in 1960, despite vast resources of gold, diamonds and uranium. The average income is about $2 per day.
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