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UN official denies C.Africa in ‘pre-genocide’ state

The Central African Republic (CAR) is not in a "pre-genocide" state despite its problems, a United Nations expert said Wednesday, touching on comments by a former UN official that have sparked a storm.

CAR “is not in a pre-genocide situation,” Adama Dieng, the UN’s special advisor for the prevention of genocide, said.

Genocide “is a long process,” he explained.

In August, the UN’s then-aid chief, Stephen O’Brien, said he was deeply worried about the mounting violence in CAR.

He said he saw “the early warning signs of genocide” and urged more troops and police to bolster the UN peacekeeping mission there.

That assertion was strongly contested by CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

He said the fighting stemmed especially from competition for minerals and other natural resources by armed groups, rather than a “programme” by one group to exterminate the other.

Dieng, who arrived for a fact-finding visit on October 6, cautioned that the situation in CAR is “serious.”

There are still “indicators… that could result… in crimes of genocide” if they are not tackled, he warned.

These include major abuses against civilian populations for their ethnic or religious affiliation, the proliferation of armed groups and the weakness of the state, he explained.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is to make his first visit to CAR by the end of the month.

The current crisis in the Central African Republic dates to 2013 when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance seized power.

They were forced out, with help from a military intervention by former colonial power France, but the country has remained plagued by violence involving various armed groups.

More than 600,000 people have fled their homes within the country and a further 500,000 have crossed borders as refugees, while nearly 2.5 million need aid, according to the UN.

The UN is considering beefing up its 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in the country in response to the bloodshed.

On Monday, several armed groups signed an agreement for a ceasefire and free movement of people in two prefectures in eastern CAR.

In June, they signed up to a ceasefire brokered by the Catholic church, but the truce only lasted a matter of hours.

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