Central African Republic journalists protest murders of colleagues

BANGUI Wed May 7, 2014 12:47pm EDT

BANGUI (Reuters) - Journalists in the Central African Republic held a one-day strike on Wednesday to protest at the killings of two of their colleagues amid clashes between Muslims and Christians in the capital Bangui last week.

Thousands of French and African troops have failed to stop the waves of intercommunal violence that erupted after predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority-Christian former French colony in March 2013.

Désiré Sayenga, a journalist with the Bangui daily Le Démocrate, was tortured and shot by a suspected group of armed Muslims who attacked him as he was returning home on the evening of April 29. He died the next day.

René Padou was the target of a grenade attack the same day and died on Monday as a result of his injuries.

None of the country's daily newspapers were published on Wednesday and radio stations broadcast only music.

Over 100 journalists staged a protest march through Bangui, accusing the government and the international forces deployed in the country of failing to live up to their responsibility to protect the population.

"The journalists of Central African Republic disapprove and denounce in the strongest terms the odious murder of our two colleagues," Maka Gbossokoto, president of the national journalists' union, said in a speech at the end of the march.

Of a population of 4.6 million, nearly one million Central Africans have been forced to flee their homes amid violence which has split the country along ethnic and religious lines.

Abuses by Seleka fighters, including rape, murder and torture, led to the rise of Christian militias known as "anti-balaka", or anti-machete, who have driven most of the Muslim population from the country's south.

Some 6,000 African Union peacekeepers and 2,000 French troops are currently deployed in Central African Republic.

The United Nations has approved a 12,000-strong peacekeeping mission to begin in September, although bringing it to full force is likely to take several months.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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