The United Nations is ready to send additional peacekeeping forces to the Central African Republic diamond-mining town of Bangassou to suppress a recent flare of attacks on civilians and peacekeepers that has cost hundreds of lives in the past two months.
Just last week, as many as 100 people were killed in the south of the country, which only last year was allowed to resume diamond exports after a three-year ban that tried preventing armed groups from financing an ongoing inter-religious conflict, one of Africa’s bloodiest.
Among the most recent victims were six UN peacekeepers, which makes of May the deadliest month for the UN mission — known by its French acronym MINUSCA — since it began in 2014.
The violence in Bangassou, located near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, represents a new escalation in a conflict that began in 2013. That year, mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and ousted then-President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from Christian anti-Balaka militias.
The additional forces are being deployed to “neutralize attackers, protect civilians and facilitate critical humanitarian support to the population,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told Bloomberg.
CAR’s diamonds exports were banned in May 2013 after the Kimberley Process, which seeks to halt the sale of gems from war zones, said there was no way to determine whether so-called blood diamonds had been eliminated from shipments.
The country was ranked as the world’s 10th-biggest diamond producer by value in 2012, before the export ban, according to the US Geological Survey. The Kimberley Process estimates diamond output was worth more than $62 million in both 2011 and 2012. Current data is unavailable.