ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, Senegal: US President Barack Obama on Monday appealed for calm in the Central African Republic and for the arrests of those behind the surge of sectarian violence, the White House said.
Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on Air Force One Obama recorded the message to the country during a refueling stop in Dakar on his way to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s memorial.
“Mbi bala ala kouh. This is President Barack Obama, and today I want to speak directly to you – the people of the Central African Republic,” Obama said.
He said the country had previously seen harmony, living “together in peace – as diverse and vibrant communities, Christian and Muslim.”
“But the awful violence of recent days threatens the country you love,” he said, urging people to “choose a different path.”
Muslim and Christian leaders “are calling for calm and peace. I call on the transitional government to join these voices and to arrest those who are committing crimes,” Obama said.
“Meanwhile, as forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians,” he pledged.
The message came as French troops on Monday started disarming fighters in the country after a spike in sectarian violence that claimed hundreds of lives.
France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to the notoriously unstable majority-Christian country, which was plunged into chaos when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March coup.
What started as rebel looting of villages and towns has degenerated into attacks between Muslim and Christian militias with some UN officials warning of a possible genocide.