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Gunfire erupts between UN peacekeepers, armed men in Central African Republic
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Hundreds of protesters in the Central African Republic (CAR) have called for the departure of United Nations peacekeepers from the country, amid a reported gunfire exchange between the UN forces and an armed group.
The protesters gathered near a major roundabout in the CAR capital of Bangui on Monday, holding anti-UN posters and throwing stones at the troops deployed in the area.
“We have seen that their mission has no use and it’s just better that they leave,” said a participant in the rally.
Herve Verhoosel, the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), also said a brief firefight had erupted earlier in the morning when unidentified armed men opened fire on a UN patrol.
He said that he was unaware of the probable casualties in the attack, adding that the situation was under control and calm had returned to the area.
The CAR, one of the world’s poorest countries, plunged into turmoil in December 2013, when Christian armed groups launched coordinated attacks against the mostly-Muslim Seleka group, which itself had toppled the government in March that year.
Clashes have forced MINUSCA to deploy some 12,000 troops in the resource-rich African country.
In July 2014, Seleka and anti-Balaka representatives signed a ceasefire agreement in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, but the country has not yet emerged from its bloody past.
According to the latest UN estimates, the conflict in the CAR has left thousands of people dead and internally displaced 399,000 people. The conflict has also forced hundreds of people to flee to neighboring countries.
The call for the departure of the UN peacekeepers comes as MINUSCA has been dogged by dozens of allegations of sexual abuse in the CAR.
Last December, a study by independent experts accused the UN of failing to respond to “gross institutional failure” to abuse allegations.
It said that children as young as nine were encouraged to have sex in exchange for food or money in the country.