Pope Francis has called for an end to violence in the Central African Republic where at least 22 people were killed this past week in fighting between rival Christian and Muslim militias in the northeastern town of Bria.
17 civilians were killed in the fighting which came amid a week of intense violence between the Christian anti-balaka militia and the mainly Muslim fighters from the former Seleka rebel group which overthrew President Francois Bozize.
The UN mission in the CAR on Saturday said some 10,000 people have fled as a result of the fighting.
At his weekly Sunday noon prayer at the Vatican, Pope Francis made an appeal for the “guns to be silenced” in the Central African Republic.
“Unfortunately painful news arrive from the Central African Republic, a country I carry in my heart, especially after my visit in November 2015,” the Pontiff told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Armed clashes the Pope noted had “caused numerous victims” and left many people displaced thus threatening the country’s peace process.
“I am close to the population and the bishops and all those who work for the good of the people and the peaceful co-existence.
“I pray for the deceased and the wounded and renew my appeal: May the guns be silenced and the goodwill for dialogue prevail to give the country peace and development,” Pope Francis said.
The Pontiff is however not the only one to have reiterated calls for the fighting in the Central African Republic to end.
The Deputy Head of the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in the country, Diane Corner in a statement said: “The fighting between armed groups in Bria and elsewhere in eastern CAR must stop.”
“These appalling acts of violence committed by armed groups over the last week have killed scores of innocent Central African men, women and children, deprived families of their homes and citizens of their livelihoods,” she said.
The fighting between the rival factions in northeastern CAR, was said to have been over Bria’s airstrip, forcing humanitarian workers to seek refuge at the MINUSCA base.
UN soldiers have meanwhile reinforced their positions in the towns of Bangassou and Alindao which were also hit by violence during the week.