Rebels in Central African Republic have razed villages, torched homes and murdered civilians in violence across neglected rural areas that began before they seized power in March and continues today, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
Thousands of fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition led by Michel Djotodia, who is now the country's interim leader, marched into the riverside capital Bangui on March 24, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee.
Reports of continuing human rights violations by Seleka fighters, including reprisal killings and rampant looting, had, until now, focused on the capital.
However, the HRW investigation found that some of the worst abuses were occurring in the isolated countryside...
...More than 200,000 Central Africans have fled their homes in the last six months and some 60,000 are suffering from severe food shortages, humanitarian groups said on Friday.
Foreign peacekeepers are concentrated primarily in the capital, and poor security has limited the movements of aid agencies outside of Bangui. Health facilities across the country have been shuttered due to the unrest.
"Before the coup, the humanitarian situation in CAR was already dire. Now it's even worse. Nations must donate now to help the country get back on its feet," said Jean-Philippe Marcoux, country director for aid group Mercy Corps.
Seleka, a grouping of five rebel movements, launched its insurgency in early December, accusing former president Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace deal.