Thousands more people have died in ongoing violence in the Central African Republic since December, and many more of the dead may never be counted, new estimates suggest. The Associated Press tallied the dead by consulting survivors, Christian and Muslim clergy and aid workers across 50 communities. The tally suggests that at least 5,186 people have died in the fighting, an increase from the U.N. estimate of 2,000 dead made in April. Many more may go uncounted. Efforts to restore peace have not yet succeeded, and observers have warned of a potential genocide in the country. About 2,000 United Nations peacekeepers took over peacekeeping efforts from African forces on Sept. 15. Almost 7,000 peacekeeping troops had been authorized in April, and more are expected in the country by 2015. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said assembling the peacekeeping force “takes time,” citing poor infrastructure and landlocked terrain. “We have to go knock on doors for troops, for equipment, helicopters,” Dujarric told the Associated Press. Violence broke out in Central African Republic in December 2012. Seleka rebels, loosely organized groups that drew primarily Muslim fighters from other countries, ousted the president and installed their own leader in a March 2013 coup. The Seleka were officially disbanded, but its members continued to commit such crimes as pillaging, looting, rape, and murder. In September 2013, after 10 months of terrorism at the hands of the Seleka, anti-balaka self-defense groups began to form. The anti-balaka picked up momentum in November, and the conflict in the nation took on a sectarian character, as some anti-balaka, many of whom are Christian, began attacking Muslims out of revenge for the Seleka’s acts. Muslims have fled the national capital of Bangui and most of the west of the country; Christians have had to leave their homes as well. The conflict has continued, crossing religious, political and tribal lines. Fighters from both sides have been implicated in the massacres of civilians and other war crimes. An interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, now heads a transitional government that hopes to hold national elections in the coming months. She has appointed Mahamat Kamoun, a Muslim, as the new prime minister. In an August 16 homily in the presence of the new prime minister, Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui urged Central African leaders “to take quick decisions to stop the suffering of the population in Bangui and elsewhere in the Country.” He said he spoke on behalf of “those who are displaced, who are fleeing the ongoing violence and are living in difficult conditions,” Fides news agency reports.
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