Bangui, Central African Republic, Oct 14, 2014 / 17:18 pm
Violence has subsided in the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui after a week of conflict, but the lack of security and an ineffective justice system are enduring problems, a relief worker in the country has said.
"A tense calm prevails over Bangui, as it has for many months, interspersed with violent spells," Leann Hager, Catholic Relief Services' country representative in the Central African Republic, told CNA Oct. 13.
Monday marked "the start, albeit slow, of the return to normal," she said.
Last week, the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui became the scene of clashes involving heavy gunfire and explosions. The violence was triggered by a grenade attack that injured several pedestrians, the BBC reports.
Violence broke out in Central African Republic in December 2012. Seleka rebels, loosely organized groups that drew primarily Muslim fighters from other countries, ousted the president and installed their own leader in a March 2013 coup.
The Seleka were officially disbanded, but its members continued to commit crimes such as pillaging, looting, rape and murder.
In September 2013, after 10 months of terrorism at the hands of the Seleka, "anti-balaka" self-defense groups began to form. The anti-balaka picked up momentum in November, and the conflict in the nation took on a sectarian character, as some anti-balaka, many of whom are Christian, began attacking Muslims out of revenge for the Seleka's acts.
As the conflict continued, it crossed political, tribal, and religious groups, leaving thousands dead and more than 1 million displaced.
Despite a ceasefire signed in July 2014 and the implementation of a transitional government, the country has yet to achieve lasting peace and stability.
The most recent fighting in Bangui left at least 10 people dead, including three children. A U.N. humanitarian official told Reuters that children have been used to man several barricades in the capital.
Hager said the national capital of Bangui suffered sporadic violence for a week, but the political standstill is "ostensibly over" now that anti-Balaka rebels have withdrawn their demands for the president's resignation. After negotiations, anti-Balaka commander Patrice Ngaissona is being brought into the government and two imprisoned anti-Balaka individuals will be released.
The anti-Balaka forces had demanded the president's resignation after $10 million in funds from Angola went missing and after continued failures in security and governance across the country.
Bangui also suffered from a simultaneous public transportation workers' strike that affected taxis and buses. The strike closed most businesses and shops.
The United Nations took over peacekeeping duties in the Central African Republic in September.
Hager emphasized the need for an effective justice system.
"There needs to be a justice system put into place that stops the impunity of existing criminal acts. Until that happens it will be difficult for the state to be seen as a respected or trusted entity," she said.
She stressed the need for a "strong" government presence in Bangui and throughout the provinces.
Hager said that Catholic Relief Services is supporting emergency relief and recovery efforts in areas like shelter rehabilitation, food security, nutrition education, agricultural recovery and the distribution of household supplies. The agency is also focused on efforts to improve social cohesion and "trauma healing," efforts which involve religious leaders, civil society leaders, and government officials.
In addition, Hager encouraged work to hold an inclusive national dialogue that will include "all elements of society from religious leaders to armed groups."
She stressed the need to speak to those outside of Bangui.
"This is where the conflict started and this is where it must stop," she said.