BANGUI (Reuters) - United Nations peacekeepers in Central African Republic shot in the air on Monday and used tear gas to disperse gunmen who tried to disrupt a forum aimed at helping restore peace to the country, witnesses said.
The incident took place as the Bangui Forum was drawing to an end, highlighting the simmering tensions in the country, where thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced during waves of violence.
No injuries were reported at the incident.
Former members of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel force and members of their arch rival ‘anti-balaka’ militia together paralysed central Bangui to protest that the peace forum had not resulted in the freeing of members detained by the government.
Some of the several hundred protestors also called for the resignation of Catherine Samba-Panza, the interim president tasked with guiding the country to elections.
A French helicopter flew overhead but did not intervene as U.N. peacekeepers broke up the protest.
The seizure of Bangui by Seleka in March 2013 led to tit-for-tat killings as ‘anti-balaka’ militia fought back against violence instigated by rebels once they were in power.
The violence forced French and then U.N. troops to intervene as U.N. officials warned that the country was on the brink of genocide.
Insecurity has eased and armed groups agreed on Sunday to a peace accord requiring them to disarm and potentially face justice for war crimes committed during the conflict.
However, the incident highlighted the potential for violence and questions remain over whether the vote, due this summer, will be held on time.
Reporting by Sebastien Lamba; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Richard Chang