Geneva (AFP) - The UN rights chief warned Monday that violence risks surging again in the Central African Republic, calling for the urgent disarming of militia groups.
"Recent events in Bangui and in several other parts of the country make me fear a re-escalation of violence in the coming months," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
"There is an urgent need to disarm the armed groups -- who remain far too powerful and retain the potential to reignite the conflict -- as well as to restore state authority and rule of law, and to ensure the security of all civilians," he insisted.
His comments came after France last month said it was ending its military operations there.
The former French colony is one of the world's poorest countries and was plunged into chaos by the ousting in March 2013 of long-serving president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance.
The coup sparked revenge attacks involving Muslim forces and Christian vigilante groups known as "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) militias.
Thousands were slaughtered in the spiral of violence that displaced almost one tenth of the country's population of 4.8 million.
The violence subsided significantly after France sent in nearly 2,500 troops, and the UN sent in a 12,600-strong MINUSCA peacekeeping force, allowing the country to hold presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year.
The polls were seen as a key step toward reconciliation, and last month France said it had reduced its force in the country to just 350 soldiers.
Zeid's office warned, though, that tensions had been rising again in Bangui since mid-June, and pointed to a range of incidents around the country where armed groups were in control and "committing serious human rights violations and preying on the civilian population."
It listed clashes outside Bangui involving ex-Seleka and anti-balaka that killed at least 17 people, and another clash in Ngaoundaye, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) northwest of Bangui that killed 14 people and displaced thousands.
Zeid stressed the "urgent need to rebuild the justice system and restore confidence in state institutions, so people do not feel the need to take justice into their own hands or to rely on armed groups for their security."
He also voiced concern at rampant violations committed in the southeast of the country by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, including killings, abductions and gender-based attacks.
And he condemned "credible and deeply worrying allegations of human rights violations and abuses" committed by the Ugandan army deployed to CAR to fight the LRA, including sexual abuse, abduction and forced marriages.