Clashes claim 22 lives in Central African Republic

A shocked aid official in the Central African Republic expressed horror on Tuesday at weekend clashes over cattle poaching that left at least 22 people dead.

With 52 people injured in the fighting and fears more bodies may have been buried and not taken to hospital, medical sources said the toll could well rise.

“Among the dead, we have seen two people who had their throats slashed. These are things that we have not seen in our country for a long time,” said Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Central African Red Cross.

“There are serious wounds, made by blades or with poisoned arrows. They used spears, machetes, to kill each other. This is very serious.”

The fighting between cattle breeders and traders broke out on Sunday at the cattle market north of the capital Bangui.

It was sparked by a dispute over 170 oxen stolen by bandits 10 days earlier but later retrieved. Traders wanted to sell the animals but the breeders sought to claim back at least some of them.

“This is a toll that could still rise,” said one hospital worker, explaining that their figures of 22 dead and 52 injured dealt only with those who had been taken to hospital.

Some victims had been buried, according to Muslim tradition, without ever having been admitted, he said.

With the atmosphere still tense on Tuesday, police and paramilitary officers were out in force around the market working to disarm the rival breeders and traders.

Social Affairs Minister Bernadette Sayo issued an appeal for an end to the fighting in a radio broadcast on Sunday, while Health Minister Andre Nalke Dorogo mobilised all available medical staff to tend to the casualties.

The courts have opened an inquiry into the clashes.—AFP

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