U.S. President Barack Obama ordered sanctions over the conflict in the Central African Republic, targeting five political figures for financial penalties including two of the country’s former presidents.
Obama unveiled an order declaring a national emergency in response to threats posed by instability in the Central African Republic, according to a White House statement yesterday. About 1 million people have been displaced since a 2013 coup in which the mostly Muslim ex-Seleka rebel group seized power.
“The order does not target the entire country of the Central African Republic, but rather is intended to target those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of the Central African Republic or who undermine democratic processes or institutions in the Central African Republic,” Obama wrote in a letter to congressional leaders announcing the move.
The U.S. acted after the United Nations Security Council announced its own sanctions on three people seen as undermining stability in the country, including former President Francois Bozize, who lives in exile in Benin. The American measures include asset freezes, bans on assistance and prohibiting individuals’ entry into the U.S.
In his order, which was signed May 12, Obama authorized penalties against Bozize; former transitional President and ex-Seleka rebellion leader Michel Djotodia; Seleka general and former public security minister Noureddine Adam; rebel leader Abdoulaye Miskine; and political coordinator Levi Yakite.
Thousands of people have been killed in clashes between ex-Seleka rebels, who brought Djotodia to power until he resigned in January, and mostly Christian anti-balaka groups that have carried out revenge attacks against those they accuse of sympathizing with the rebels.
French photojournalist Camille Lepage was killed while working in Central African Republic, French President Francois Hollande said yesterday. French soldiers patrolling in the Bouar region found her body while inspecting a vehicle driven by anti-balaka forces. A group of French officials were immediately dispatched to find the “murderers,” Hollande said.
An international peacekeeping force of almost 8,000 French and African soldiers has failed so far to halt the violence between Christian and Muslim communities that began after the overthrow of Bozize in March last year.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement that since armed groups began a rebellion in late 2012 and the government was overthrown last year, “communities that have lived together peacefully for generations are being torn apart along sectarian lines” and the country is in a “crisis of disastrous proportions.”
More than 2.5 million people need assistance, Carney said. The sanctions send “a powerful message that impunity will not be tolerated and that those who threaten the stability of the CAR will face consequences,” Carney said.
Carney said the U.S. “will continue to provide support to the transitional government as it works to restore governance and pave the way for a return to an elected government.”