By Mick Krever, CNN
The U.N. Deputy Secretary-General warned on Wednesday against having once again to say “never again” over the on-going bloodletting in the Central African Republic.
“The Secretary General and I are rather, I would say, disappointed, that we so often use the term ‘never again,’” Jan Eliasson told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The very fact that we repeat ‘never again’ I think is a sign that it’s about time that we act on serious human rights violations early on.”
“Serious human rights violations are the first signs of something that could turn into mass atrocities,” he said. “And now this time we are acting late, I must admit, but hopefully not too late.”
About 400,000 thousand people have been affected by fighting in the Central African Republic – about 10% of the population. Just Wednesday, another 12 people were killed and 30 injured, including children.
The country has been rolling between crises almost since its independence from France in 1960.
It descended into civil war in March when a Muslim rebellion known as “Seleka” overthrew the president, and the country descended intro banditry against the country’s Christian majority; vigilante Christian groups have now joined the fight, targeting Muslims.
“We have to stabilize the situation [and] stop this very dangerous trend of Muslims versus Christians, which brings in an emotional quality to the conflict and could very much spread into something very dangerous,” Eliasson said.
“We have reports of sexual violence, of child solider recruitment, of also problems, huge problems of food and shelter and security for the civilian population,” he said.
The country, which Eliasson characterized as having weak institutions, very weak infrastructure, and plenty of mineral resources – “which is an attractive target for crime” – makes for a “very bad mix.”
Many in the West fear that a failed state could become a haven for al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.
France has stepped in in an attempt to restore order, as it did earlier this year when armed extremists overthrew the government in Mali, in North-West Africa.
Eliasson said that he commends them for both those incursions.
He and his boss, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have pushed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution on Central African Republic, authorizing force by French and African troops.
“We sounded the alarm to the Security Council last week in a more dramatic way than I can recall in recent times,” he said. “There are already 450 French troops there, and within the next five or six days there will be another 800.”
The U.N., he said, has issued “a call for action very soon to stabilize the situation before it evolves into mass atrocities, which could be a risk.”
CNN on the ground in Central African Republic