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UN Rights Office Alarmed at Uptick in Violence Ahead of Central African Republic Elections

By Lisa Schlein December 25, 2020

The United Nations human rights office warns the increase in violence ahead of Sunday's elections in the Central African Republic presents serious risks to the civilian population and threatens to disrupt the electoral process.

U.N. officials say escalating violence is creating mayhem in the Central African Republic and could scare people away from the polls. The U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates at least 55,000 people have been forcibly displaced within Central African Republic and an unknown number of other people reportedly have sought safety in neighboring countries.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell tells VOA her office is deeply alarmed by reports of armed violence, which is being stoked by political grievances and hate speech.

"The violence comes amid an extremely tense political situation in the run-up to elections as you can imagine…There have been in recent days numerous reports of attacks against the security forces, against the political candidates who are standing for election and against the officials who are responsible for running the elections on Sunday, that are due to take place on Sunday," Throssell said.

Clashes between armed groups and security forces are taking place across a wide area, including neighborhoods near the capital, Bangui. Six civilians reportedly have been killed. The deaths have not all been verified. The United Nations, so far, has confirmed one civilian dead and 12 others wounded.

Throssell blames much of this current crisis on the proliferation of hate speech, which is being widely spread on social media. She notes this extremely worrying and dangerous problem is not new.

"It is something that does stem back a number of years with particular groups being targeted, with people whipping up sentiments against different groups, different ethnicities, different factions…Hate speech is really, in a way, a catalyst for further violence in what is already a very fragile, very tense situation in the Central African Republic," Throssell said.

The U.N. human rights office is appealing to neighboring countries, the African Union, and the Economic Community for Central African States to use their influence to ensure a peaceful resolution of this crisis.

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