Johannesburg - Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu warned on Sunday that the Central African Republic was “on the brink of genocide”, as he urged warring sides to reconcile their differences and “re-learn to live together”.
“Over the past 13 months, the nation's seemingly incessant struggles for political power and resources have degenerated into anarchy, hatred and ethnic cleansing - the country stands on the brink of genocide; some would say it has already commenced,” Archbishop Emeritus Tutu said in a statement released by his peace foundation.
The former French colony, one of the poorest countries in the world, plunged into a crisis after a coup by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels in March last year.
After seizing power, some of the rebels went rogue and embarked on a campaign of killing, raping and looting.
The abuses prompted members of the Christian majority to form vigilante groups, unleashing a wave of brutal tit-for-tat killings, leaving thousands dead and close to a million displaced.
In his message, Tutu called on people on all sides of the conflict - Christian, Muslim and Atheist - to “rekindle the spirit of tolerance”.
“When we forgive we liberate ourselves and sow a seed for a new beginning; it has a powerful multiplier effect,” he said.
“It is the people of the Central African Republic who hold the key to sustainable peace. It is the people who must re-learn to live together,” he said.
With the humanitarian crisis in the country spiralling, he said the deployment of a new UN peacekeeping force Ä which will see 12 000 troops on the ground - was a “massive relief” and would help “protect the people from themselves”.
“They will assist to restore broken systems, including policing and justice,” he said. - Sapa-AFP