The United States has called for an end to the “cycle of violence” in the Central African Republic (CAR) after soldiers publicly lynched a suspected ex-rebel following a military ceremony.
The gruesome attack, widely captured on camera, happened mere moments after Catherine Samba Panza, the new interim president, spoke of her pride in seeing the country’s armed forces contribute to national security again, the AFP news agency reported.
“This sectarian violence must end,” Jen Psaki, the US State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, urging CAR to “break the cycle of violence” and halt revenge attacks between Muslims and Christians.
“The people of CAR must seize the opportunity afforded by its newly appointed transitional leadership and a strong level of international support to end the present crisis and move toward a stable and peaceful society.”
The Central African Republic has been engulfed in deadly violence since Muslim rebels calling themselves Seleka, or alliance, seized power in March 2013, forcing the then president Francois Bozize out of power.
The violence intensified, leaving hundreds of people dead, as the mainly Christian anti-balaka (machete) started fighting Seleka rebels who are blamed for a campaign of murder, rape and looting against the Christian majority.
Psaki said Washington and other countries and international organisations “will support the efforts of the transition government to end the conflict and re-establish a functioning state”.
‘He’s a Seleka’
The gruesome attack came immediately after the end of the military ceremony in the capital Bangui attended by senior army and government officials.
Uniformed soldiers attacked a young man in civilian clothes, stamping on his head, stabbing him and throwing stones at him, witnesses and AFP journalists said.
“He’s a Seleka [ex-rebel]”, “He has infiltrated”, the officers could be heard shouting, as they were quickly joined by an angry mob.
The victim’s body was then dragged through the streets as troops from the African Union-led MISCA mission, who had provided security at the ceremony, looked on.
Witnesses said the body was dismembered and burned before the MISCA troops finally intervened to disperse the crowd with tear gas and shots in the air.
Just moments before the brutal lynching, Samba Panza had told the crowd of around 4,000 troops and dignitaries gathered at the National School of Magistrates of her “pride in seeing so many elements of the Central African Republic Forces reunited”.
She also assured the troops that talks were under way with international partners to settle their wages, unpaid for five months, and get them the equipment they need “so they can fulfil their mission of securing Bangui and the national territory”.