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UN calls for immediate truce in CAR

2011-09-21 11:11

Libreville - The United Nations called for an immediate truce between rival groups in the Central African Republic fighting for control over diamond mines, in a statement sent to AFP Tuesday.

"The United Nations expresses its strong concern over the violent fighting between the CPJP and UFDR in Bria and calls for an immediate ceasefire," a statement by the UN office in the country said, urging for the conflict to be resolved "by peaceful means."

The statement deplored "the loss of human life and goods" during the clashes and called on both sides to ensure the safety of vulnerable sections of the population, especially women and children.

The fighting in Bria, a town in the centre of the country, has claimed 30 lives over the past week, a military official said on Monday.

The official said the fighting pits former rebels from the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) against rebels of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP).

The UFDR is dominated by the Ronga and the CPJP by the Goula, two rival ethnic groups who have feuded over the region's diamond mines for years.

Bria is the country's main diamond mining hub and according to a report published last year by the International Crisis Group, the stones are fuelling the conflict.

The UFDR has signed a peace agreement and the CPJP a ceasefire but ICG said diamonds stoked a type of conflict that is best described as "banditry under a rebel flag".

Industrial mining never took off in the impoverished country and most diamonds are extracted by an estimated 80 000 to 100 000 unlicensed miners equipped with picks and shovels.