UK Must Help Stabilise Crisis in Central African Republic; A Devastating Cycle of Violence in the Central African Republic Has Seen a Million People Fleeing Their Homes, and Left 1,000 Dead in the Past Month Alone. Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham and Shadow Minister for Middle East and Africa, Here Traces the Roots of the Bloodshed and Asks What the UK Can Do to Help Address the Unfolding Conflict

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THE brutal images of sectarian violence that have emerged from the Central African Republic (CAR) since March last year have shocked the world.

The scale of the violence, which has intensified since November, has escalated rapidly.

More than 1,000 people have died in the past month alone.

A widespread culture of impunity has rendered women particularly vulnerable and sexual violence is being used to terrorise groups within the country.

A million people have fled or been displaced from their homes, compounding the already desperate humanitarian crisis.

Amid the horror, there is also confusion - from those struggling to make sense of a conflict in a country where Christian and Muslim communities have coexisted peacefully in the past and where, now, intense religious division is leading to horrific violence.

Whilst the CAR is oil-rich, it is one of the world's least developed countries, and its citizens are amongst the poorest in Africa.

The country has a long history of instability leading to social unrest, coups, and of high levels of corruption.

However, the violence which has enveloped large areas of the country in recent months is unprecedented.

The inter-religious tensions that are fuelling this conflict are a relatively recent development - mirroring increasing inter-faith clashes elsewhere across the continent.

Indeed, the French Ambassador to the United Nations admitted this week that his country underestimated the deep divisions between the religious communities in the CAR who are now trying "desperately to kill each other".

The CAR has been plagued with violence since the predominantly Muslim alliance of five rebel movements, the Seleka group, seized control of the capital Bangui in March 2013.

Christian president Francois Bozize was forcibly removed from power, and the rebels then put president Djotodia in power - the first time a Muslim had presided over the majority Christian country.

When Djotodia lost control over the Seleka, the country descended into chaos.

Muslim and Christian communities were pitted against each other, accusing each other of initiating the violence.

Last week both president Djotodia and his prime minister Nicolas Tiangaye resigned, following pressure from both France, the former colonial power, and from African neighbours.

Whether this resignation has improved prospects for peace is as yet unclear, and the security and humanitarian situations in the country remain precarious. It's clear, however, that an interim prime minister must now be appointed as soon as possible, with fresh elections taking place before the end of the year. …