Militia infighting in Central African Republic (CAR) killed around 40 people over the weekend and forced several hundred from their homes, local authorities said on Tuesday.
The bloodshed was some of the worst since armed groups agreed a peace deal last February. That was meant to bring stability to a country rocked by violence since 2013, when mainly Muslim rebels in the Seleka alliance ousted the then president, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militia.
The clashes broke out on Saturday in the eastern town of Bria between different ethnic factions of the ex-Seleka armed group FPRC, according to the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA.
Thirty-eight were killed based on a body count at the local hospital, but the death toll could be closer to 50, said regional prefect Evariste Binguinendji.
“Parents have already started burying their dead, so it’s difficult to get an accurate figure,” Binguinendji told Reuters by phone.
The president of the CAR Red Cross, Antoine Mbao Bogo, said 41 had been killed in the clashes.
The situation in Bria has been calm since around midday on Sunday, when MINUSCA peacekeepers were deployed in the town, said mission spokesman Vladimir Monteiro.
The presence of rival factions in Bria, a diamond-mining hub, made the town a regular flashpoint for violence before the latest peace deal was agreed.
Commenting on the FPRC infighting, FPRC spokesman Aboubacar Ali Sidik said there had been no split. “There are problems, as there are in all families. We always end up finding a solution.
Thousands of people have died because of the unrest in the diamond and gold-producing country, and a fifth of the 4.5 million population have fled their homes.
The government and rebels expressed optimism when the peace accord was signed last year, but lasting peace is not guaranteed: similar agreements in 2014, 2015 and 2017 all broke down.