Politician gunned down in Central African Republic capital

Reuters

BANGUI (Reuters) - Gunmen murdered a politician outside his house in Central African Republic's capital overnight, officials said, in a blow to the new president's efforts to restore order in the divided nation.

No group claimed responsibility for killing Jean-Emmanuel Djarawa a day after he made a speech denouncing recent violence and calling for Christian militias to be confined to barracks.

Central African Republic descended into chaos after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March last year and embarked on a 10-month reign of terror marked by looting, torture and murder.

Since the departure of Seleka head and interim President Michel Djotodia in January under international pressure, Christian militias have stepped up revenge attacks against Muslims. Violence has killed thousands and left about a quarter of Bangui's population homeless.

Former colonial ruler France has sent in troops to bolster regional peacekeepers, amid fears the violence could spread over the borders of the impoverished country in the heart of Africa.

Attackers followed Djarawa, a Christian representative for eastern Haute-Kotto province, and shot him several times near his house in northern Bangui on Sunday night, said government officials.

"He was returning home from town and he was shot down with eight gunshots by armed men," said Etienne Bazouati, another parliamentarian.

Red Cross country director Antoine Mbao Bogo said his organization had been called to collect the body.

Amy Martin, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Bangui, said the killing would put additional strains on peacekeepers as officials sought more protection.

"It will be impossible for troops to protect both members of parliament and the neighborhoods," she said.

Three daylight lynchings were reported last week and thousands of Muslims have tried to flee to neighboring Chad and Cameroon. Muslims in the capital are now confined mostly to the PK12 neighborhood in Bangui's north, Martin said.

President Catherine Samba-Panza, former mayor of Bangui, was appointed as interim President last month promising to end the cycle of inter-communal violence.

Central African Republic, one of the continent's poorest countries for all its mineral resources, borders six other states, including strife-hit South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

(Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Additional reporting and writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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