Clashes between anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka rebels in Bangassou, Central African Republic (CAR), have killed up to 150 people over the last few days. Tensions in the country have been rising for weeks, and violence has returned to the alarming levels of 2013, when the CAR crisis was at its peak.
Search for Common Ground staff in Bangassou are all unharmed. However, we are deeply saddened by the news that one of the country’s leading mediators, and Common Ground Awardee, Reverend Nicolas Guérékoyamé-Gbangou, was targeted while tending to the wounded and attempting to mediate peace in the south-eastern part of the city. While the Reverend survived the attack, two of his family members were killed. We offer our deepest condolences to the Reverend and his family. Our thoughts go to his family and the many victims of these brutal attacks.
The Reverend has been a staunch advocate for peace despite extreme hardships. We appreciate the leadership he has shown and emphasize the need to reinvest in civilian-led approaches to peace in the CAR. The clashes in Bangassou and the attacks in Bambari evidence the extensive fragility in the country. Mounting tensions and increasing sectarian divides threaten gross human rights violations, mass casualties, and large-scale displacement. Further destabilization in CAR will have critical repercussions for a region already afflicted by refugee crises, famine, and violence.
The international community together with the local government need to address drivers of conflict and promote grassroots, community-based alternatives to violence. Despite the bleak political and humanitarian environment in the Central African Republic, international actors have the duty to focus on addressing short-term humanitarian needs while maintaining a long-term view of recovery, stability, and self-reliance. We urge the international community to reinvest in the overall welfare of CAR and support locally-driven approaches to preventing violent conflict.