August 8, 2019 / 2:19 PM / 12 days ago

Central African Republic sees sharp decline in violence

DAKAR, Aug 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Central African Republic may be getting safer, according to new figures from the United Nations that show a sharp drop in the number of attacks and human rights abuses since last year.

The head of human rights for the U.N. mission in the country said a peace deal between the government and 14 armed groups in February appeared to have allowed for a relative respite, but was hesitant to declare it a success.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, called MINUSCA, recorded 565 incidents of abuse or human rights violations from January through June, compared to 1,674 in the same period of 2018 and 1,097 the year before.

These include rapes, attacks and the recruitment of children to armed groups. Of 1,082 victims, 403 were women and children.

Central African Republic has been in conflict since 2013, when mainly Muslim rebels ousted the former president, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias.

Thousands of people have died because of the unrest in the diamond and gold-producing country, and one in five of its 4.5 million population have fled their homes.

There has been only one major attack on civilians this year, in May, and no clashes between rival armed groups, said MINUSCA.

“I see a trend and I hope it will continue, but I don’t want to say that this is going to be the long-term trend,” said Musa Gassama, director of the human rights division of MINUSCA.

“Armed groups still control the areas, armed groups are still armed, and of course despite the peace process I cannot just say it is over,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The African Union oversaw talks between the government and rebels that led to the signing of the peace deal in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, but it was not the first of its kind.

Similar agreements broke down in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Reporting by Nellie Peyton, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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