The government of Central African Republic deployed troops alongside United Nations peacekeepers on Saturday to a flashpoint district on Bangui after clashes between rival groups left at least three people dead.
“The government must restore peace,” said security minister General Henri Wanzet Liguissara in a speech broadcast on national radio.
Peacekeepers from the UN’s MINUSCA force were deployed with government forces in the fractious PK5 and KM5 districts of Bangui “to take out all those who don’t want peace and want weapons to sound out,” throughout KM5, the minister said.
Three people were killed and at least seven others wounded in clashes in the PK5 neighbourhood late on Thursday.
Once a Muslim rebel bastion, PK5 is now home to several armed groups that have taken advantage of the weakness of the state since the end of a sectarian conflict pitting mainly Muslim rebels against nominally Christian militias.
Last week, a neighbourhood traders’ association called ACK demanded the peacekeepers take action to shut down such armed groups, who have long been accused of extortion and violence against shopkeepers and the local population.
Fed up with having to repeatedly cough up protection money, local traders in January refused to pay, prompting a tense standoff with the militias as well as with MINUSCA troops, whom they accuse of inaction.
Mired in poverty but rich in minerals, the former French colony has been battered by a conflict between rival militias that began in 2013 after then president Francois Bozize was overthrown.
Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting