AT least 20 people have been killed and dozens injured in the latest inter-ethnic clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR), police said on Monday.
An official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said the violence broke out on Friday when mainly Christian anti-balaka militias launched an attack against rebels of the largely Muslim former Seleka alliance and Peul in the central region of Bambari.
“At least 12 people were killed in that attack,” the official said.
He said ex-Seleka rebels and armed Peul herders—also known as the Fulani—launched a reprisal attack on Saturday on the village of Kouango, 90 kilometres (55 miles) south, killing at least eight people, injuring dozens and setting several homes on fire.
Bambari, which lies near the dividing line separating the Christian south from the northern region controlled by ex-Seleka rebels, has been the scene of fierce clashes that have left more than 100 people dead and at least 200 injured since June.
Last week 28 people were killed in sectarian clashes in Mbres, just days after a reconciliation ceremony organised by the UN peacekeeping mission there.
The former French colony that is diamond-rich but dirt poor has suffered numerous coups and bouts of instability since independence in 1960, but the March 2013 toppling of Francois Bozize’s regime by the Seleka rebel coalition triggered the worst upheaval to date.
Relentless attacks by the mainly Muslim rebels on the majority Christian population spurred the formation of vigilante groups, who in turn began exacting revenge on Muslim civilians, driving them out of most parts of the country.
Several thousand people were killed in the tit-for-tat attacks, which plunged the population of 4.8 million into an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
MEANWHILE, in a further violent opening to the week, a bombing at a bus station in Gombe city in northeast Nigeria killed at least 20 people on Monday, the latest outrage in the region repeatedly targeted by Boko Haram, the Red Cross said.
Nigeria is set to hold a general election on February 14, but relentless bloodshed has raised security concerns ahead of the poll, with some warning that voting may be impossible in large parts of the northeast.
“There was an explosion at the Dukku motor park. The Red Cross mobilised with 20 body bags and they have all been exhausted,” said Abubakar Yakubu Gombe, area secretary for the Red Cross.
“We are still looking for more bodies among the carnage,” he told AFP, adding that another 18 people with “serious” injuries had been taken to hospital.
The bomb was planted near a bus that was filling up with passengers, said Mato Yakubu of the National Orientation Agency, a government body responsible for the media.
He said the blast occurred at 10:50 am (0950 GMT) at the station on the outskirts of Gombe city, capital of Gombe state.
The city was hit by a triple bombing blamed on the Islamists on October 31.
The state shares a border with Borno and Yobe, two of the states worst affected by Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency which has cost more than 13,000 lives.
The Islamists have claimed a number of attacks at bus stations, often targeting people who are heading to Nigeria’s mainly Christian south.
Witness Awwalu Lame said a mob formed at the station shortly after the blast went off, with locals throwing stones at the security services.
Anger has risen across northern Nigeria following complaints that the security services have repeatedly failed to contain the violence.
While experts agree that isolated bombings are extremely difficult to stop, the broader military response to the extremist uprising has been widely criticised.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for a second term, has on several occasions claimed that Boko Haram’s defeat was imminent, even as the violence has escalated.
The insurgency has forced more than 1.5 million people from their homes, straining resources in the embattled northeast, as communities struggle to care for those displaced.
Underscoring the severity of the crisis, 185 people, mostly women and children, were kidnapped on December 14 from the town of Gumsuri in Borno.
The attack recalled the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from a school in the town of Chibok in April, a mass abduction that Jonathan vowed would not happen again.
The president’s opponent in February polls, ex-military dictator Muhammadu Buhari from the mainly Muslim north, is seen by some as better placed to contain the Boko Haram threat, but experts say he may struggle to unseat an incumbent with the backing of a wealthy ruling party.
BUT all was not gloom and doom. In Tunisia moderate anti-Islamist politician Beji Caid Essebsi won Tunisia’s presidential election with 55.68% of the vote, beating incumbent Moncef Marzouki, the electoral commission said Monday.
Essebsi, an 88-year-old veteran of previous governments, becomes the first president freely elected by Tunisians since independence from France in 1956.
He clinched 1.7 million votes against Marzouki’s more than 1.3 million in Sunday’s runoff election, electoral commission chief Chafik Sarsar told a news conference.
AND in Burkina Faso, hundreds of people placed brooms on the grave of the country’s former leader Thomas Sankara on Sunday in a symbolic gesture to demand justice for the revolutionary hero killed in a 1987 coup.
Sankara—seen as an African “Che Guevara”, who would have been 65 on Sunday—was assassinated during the coup that brought his former friend Blaise Compaore to power.
Compaore fled a popular uprising in October after 27 years as president of the impoverished west Africa country.
“The broom has a symbolic meaning for some ethic groups, asking the dead person to point out who killed them,” said the rapper Smockey, one of the founders of “Balai Citoyen” (Citizen’s Broom) group, which helped organise the protests that led to Compaore’s downfall.
“It’s an appeal for the reopening of the Sankara case,” he added.
“We succeeded in winning a first step towards victory (with the fall of Compaore). Now we are at the second step—for justice. The third will be the rehabilitation (of Sankara) and the spreading of his ideas,” Smockey told some 300 people gathered around the grave of Sankara and 12 of his comrades killed in the coup.
A pan-Africanist revolutionary, Sankara transformed what was then the former French colony of Upper Volta into Burkina Faso, the “Land of the Upright Men”. His spirit loomed large during the recent anti-Compaore protests.
Interim president Michel Kafando, who took over from Compaore after torturous talks between the military and civilian leaders, promised to investigate whether the remains in the grave were actually those of Sankara. His family have been asking in vain since 1997 for an investigation amid claims that the corpse buried there was not his.
The Sankara case “will be entirely reopened and justice will be done”, Kafando said in early December.
Many in the crowd at the Dagnoen cemetery east of the capital Ouagadougou, including political leaders, demanded that the authorities turn their words into deeds.
“We want to know what happened on October 15, 1987. Why did you cut off our hope?” asked reggae musician Sams’K le Jah, another co-founder of Balai Citoyen.