Caritas Central African Republic President Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui says the situation in his country is worsening every day.
The archbishop is traveling to the United Nations in Geneva on Monday to brief officials, diplomats, and non-governmental organizations on the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga will be calling for an expanded role of the African Union peacekeeping mission to CAR (known as MISCA) in a bid to establish greater security.
A state of anarchy has prevailed in his country since Seleka rebels seized power in March. Human rights abuses have been widely reported by Church staff and others, including murder, extortion, torture and looting.
“The number of abuses cannot be counted,” said Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga. “People have been killed, homes burned and women raped by the rebels.”
The archbishop says that the number of rebels has surged from 3,500 in March to 25,000 today. He says they have enrolled children into their ranks. The supply of small arms is also increasing. And people are organizing themselves in to self-defense militias with homemade weapons to resist the rebels.
“It’s a tinderbox,” said Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga.
Meanwhile, providing aid outside the capital is extremely difficult because of the insecurity, said the archbishop.
The crisis is at its worst in the town of Bossangoa, around 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of the capital. More than 2,000 houses have been burned down in the area and 37,000 people are seeking refuge in the Catholic Mission.
Conditions in Bossangoa are grave, with poor sanitation, disease and malnutrition claiming four to five lives a day according to the local church. Caritas has been able to provide medical help, blankets and plastic sheeting.
Catholic Church leaders have joined other Christian religious leaders and the Imam of Bangui to travel the country promoting peace and urging local pastors, imams and priests to take that message to the local people.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga is now taking the message of peace to the international community.
He is urging:
— African Union peacekeeping mission MISCA to be deployed throughout the country and its mandate strengthened to come under UN Charter VII,
— Humanitarian relief operations to be properly supported by the international community,
— The setting up of an independent electoral commission to organize credible elections, with oversight from international observers,
— The International Criminal Court to investigate abuses, stop human rights abuses and ensure protection of the civilian population
Caritas Internationalis and the Permanent Mission of the Holy See are organizing the event with Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga on Monday at the UN in Geneva. It will take place in conjunction with the 17th session of the Universal Periodic Review.
The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations.
Central African Republic will be reviewed by the UPR Working Group on Friday 25 October.