UNICEF has issued an urgent call from the Central African Republic where a month of growing violence and political unrest has now culminated in reports of children being 'beheaded and mutilated' as warring factions collide.
According to the UN agency charged with protecting and fostering child welfare across the globe, the killings of at least 16 children—at least two of whom were beheaded—have been confirmed in CAR's capital city of Bangui since fighting broke out on December 5th. Another 60 children, according to UNICEF, have suffered grave injuries amid the violence that has received scant international attention.
“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,” said Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF Representative in CAR.
"Targeted attacks against children are a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and must stop immediately. Concrete action is needed now to prevent violence against children," Diabate said.
The international doctors group Medicine Sans Frontier (Doctors Without Borders), has also issued pleas for a reduction in violence and better protections for vulnerable civilians and medical staff trying to treat the wounded. MSF staff report the situation in the capital city as "out of control" as fighting, lynchings, and violent attacks escalated over recent days.
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"We have been receiving more patients with serious injuries at the Hôpital Communautaire the last few days,” said Laurent Sury, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Bangui. “People are coming in with machete wounds to the head, hands and arms – injuries sustained as they tried to defend themselves. We’ve also seen people who have been stabbed, sometimes multiple times, in the abdomen, and people who have been either tortured or brutally beaten. We have even had a case of impalement. For the most part, these are young men.”
Though both France and the African Union have sent peacekeeping forces to CAR it remains unclear how a reduction in bloodshed can be achieved under current conditions.
Violence continued in Bangui on Monday and into Tuesday as shelling intensified and journalists reported chaos at the airport as people, both foreigners and Central Africans, tried to board emergency flights out of the country.
Though framed by many Western media outlets as a sectarian-fueled conflict between Muslim and Christian factions, Al-Jazeera America reports that "the bloodshed has little to do with religion — in a nation where Muslims and Christians have long lived in peace — and instead blame a political battle for control of resources in one of Africa's most weakly governed states."