By Mick Krever, CNN
Crimes against humanity may have been committed in Central African Republic, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday from the capital of that country, Bangui.
“I don't think we…know the full scale of what has happened here in recent days, weeks and months,” she said. “But I certainly agree that what appear to be crimes against humanity have been committed.”
Both sides of the conflict, she said, are responsible for those offenses – both the Muslim Seleka militias that overthrew the president earlier this year, and the rival Christian groups that sprung up in retaliation.
“We met with one 20-year-old woman today who watched her husband get stabbed to death right in front of her,” she said. He was “then covered with kerosene and then lit on fire – literally burned to a crisp before her very eyes.”
That happened, she said, just last Thursday.
Though the situation has calmed somewhat, she told Amanpour, there is still “palpable fear on the ground and palpable mistrust.”
France has sent 1,600 troops under United Nations mandate into Central African Republic to assist African troops.
The United States, though not contributing troops, is using its airplanes to ferry in troops from across Africa.
Speaking with Amanpour on Tuesday, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner offered an impassioned plea for intervention.
“Were we supposed to let them die? We were facing an eventual, or the beginning of a bloodbath.”
“I agree,” Power said. “It really could have descended very, very quickly into a bloodbath.”
“One of the reasons that the president asked me to take the trip here is to assess the situation up front, to try to look ahead and see what will be needed.”
It is important, Power said, that “we walk and chew gum at the same time.”
In other words, “deal with the crisis at hand” but also make sure that if “it was deemed necessary to bring in a peacekeeping mission, that we be in a position to do that more quickly than otherwise.”