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UN official: We 'failed' Central African Republic

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The international community has "so far failed the people" of Central African Republic amid ethnic cleansing and thousands of deaths, the director of U.N. humanitarian operations declared Thursday, saying it hasn't sent enough security forces or funding to turn the situation around.

John Ging told reporters that the mood in one of the world's poorest countries is turning to "resignation" amid unprecedented sectarian violence. People now blame Christians or Muslims instead of simply "armed groups" as they did before, he said.

"People are losing their humanity," he added.

Ging briefed on his first visit to the country in three months, and he said there has been a "very significant deterioration," with 2,000 people killed during that time.

"The reality is, thousands have been killed in the most brutal manner," he said. "Hundreds of thousands have fled. ... There has, in effect, been an ethnic cleansing."

Tensions between Christians and Muslims soared in December when Christian militants stormed the capital to overthrow the Muslim rebel government. Some in the international community, including members of the U.N. Security Council, have warned of genocide.

The economy has collapsed, there is no governance despite "outstanding leadership," and crimes are being committed without impunity, Ging said. "Armed groups are seizing on the fear of the population and convincing them that safety and security is with their own."

He stressed that peacekeeping troops be mobilized more quickly. Last month, the U.N. Security Council authorized a nearly 12,000-strong peacekeeping force to bolster about 2,000 French troops and nearly 5,000 African Union troops already in the country to protect civilians.

But getting the U.N. troops into place takes months, and the country the size of Texas is home to 4.6 million people.

"The problem continues to be not enough and not in time," Ging said.

And the humanitarian crisis grows. Just 28 percent of a $551 million international funding appeal for Central African Republic has been met, he said, and the rainy season is starting, making transportation and the delivery of aid more difficult and expensive.

Ging's last visit three months ago was to the town of Bossangoa, and since then all the Muslims have left, he said. This time, he visited the town of Boda, where an estimated 4,000 Muslims are asking to be evacuated.

Strikingly, he said, the Christians in Boda were urging the U.N. to evacuate the Muslims, too — an example of the country's growing "segregation and separation."

"This is the ugly dynamic" of intolerance, Ging said, and he warned that the disappearance of Muslims from Boda is "inevitable" unless the security situation changes.

More than 600,000 people have been displaced inside Central African Republic by the violence, and more than 330,000 have fled to neighboring countries, according to U.N. figures.

"It's a collective failure for the international community that we were not able to provide security for people in their homes and they had to take a measure of last resort" and leave, Ging said.

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