At least four people were shot dead on Sunday in the capital of Central African Republic, hospital sources said, in a second day of inter-religious clashes that the government said were aimed at derailing elections next month.
Armed Christian militia members roamed the streets and protesters erected barricades in Bangui, a day after at least 21 people were killed and another 100 were wounded when Muslims attacked a mainly Christian neighborhood.
The two days of clashes, sparked by the murder of a Muslim man, were the worst this year in the city, where U.N. peacekeepers and French troops are meant to ensure security.
Angry young men used tree trunks to block Bangui’s main arteries early on Sunday. Soldiers from the U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, fired tear gas at crowds in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the roads.
Witnesses reported hearing sporadic gunfire in parts of the city and saw homes and shops being looted.
The government on Sunday ordered a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in an attempt to quell the violence.
“Enough is enough. We want (President Catherine) Samba-Panza to go. Since she’s been there the Muslims kill with impunity. She’s doing nothing to disarm them,” said one protester who declined to give his name.
Thousands of Central Africans have died and hundreds of thousands remain displaced after two years of violence that erupted after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013.
Seleka abuses sparked reprisals by Christian “anti-balaka” militias that drove most Muslims from the south in a de facto partition of the country.
Protesters alleged U.N. and French forces did little to intervene in Saturday’s violence and called for the sidelined Central African army, the FACA, to assume responsibility for security.
“We are calling for a civil disobedience movement starting now and we demand the immediate redeployment, without conditions, of the FACA,” said civil society leader Gervais Lakossa.
Anti-balaka fighters armed with assault rifles and machetes were seen on Bangui’s streets on Sunday as many city residents fled their homes for protected displacement camps.
“The government asks the population not to cede to the manipulation of extremists who are seeking to set the country on fire to satisfy their selfish political ambitions,” Security Minister Dominique Said Paguindji said on state radio.
Voters are due to elect a new president and parliament on Oct. 18 to replace an interim government led by Samba-Panza. Despite lagging preparations and the renewed violence in the capital, Paguindji said the polls would go ahead as scheduled.