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September 12, 2018 | Africa

Central Africa aid groups halt operations after staff attacks

AFP
A Tanzanian soldier from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic patrols the town of Gamboula on July 6.  By FLORENT VERGNES (AFP)
A Tanzanian soldier from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic patrols the town of Gamboula on July 6. By FLORENT VERGNES (AFP)

Six humanitarian groups working in the north of the troubled Central African Republic on Wednesday halted operations to protest violent attacks against their personnel.

Baptise Hanquart of the charities' umbrella organisation CCO said 32 incidents had been recorded, including 21 since June, in the market town of Kaga Bandoro alone.

Seven staff have been killed across the impoverished former French colony -- one of the most dangerous for aid workers in the world -- since the start of the year, according to the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO).

Aid organisations present a "financial opportunity for armed groups", Hanquart said, while vowing they would not "abandon their commitment to the people" of the Central African Republic.

Hanquart described Wednesday's work stoppage -- also observed in other towns -- as a "day of indignation in the face of all that the people and the NGOs suffer."

The local UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that since the end of June thefts, break-ins and lootings have surged in many towns including Kaga Bandoro.

One of the world's poorest countries, the CAR plunged into a religious-tinged conflict in 2013 when a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka, overthrew the majority-Christian country's president, Francois Bozize.

France intervened to help remove the Seleka, and the following year the United Nations deployed a large military force on a peacekeeping and stabilisation mission.

However, the country remains violent and unstable. Most of its territory is in the hands of militia groups, many of them claiming to protect Muslims or Christians and fighting over resources.

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