BANGUI, Central African Republic — The interim president of the Central African Republic told the hundreds of soldiers standing in formation Wednesday that she was proud of them and called on their support to bring order to their anarchic country. Then she left, and the soldiers broke ranks to stab and stomp a man in their midst to death. They also dragged his corpse through the streets.
The horrific attack, witnessed by Associated Press journalists, shows the degree of hatred and savagery into which this impoverished country has fallen and the difficulty faced by the international community, which has already deployed thousands of peacekeepers, to try to stabilize it.
Wednesday's gathering was intended to highlight the rebuilding of the national army, left in tatters when President Francois Bozize was ousted from power in a March 2013 coup. The general in charge of the French military mission in the Central African Republic highlighted how the national soldiers "have above all a detailed knowledge of the terrain which will allow us to have them take over the action."
Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who took over last month, announced that the government soldiers will soon be paid after five months without wages.
But after she left, the soldiers spotted a suspected former member of the Seleka rebellion that had overthrown the government. His name was Idriss, and he was standing among them. They accused him of being an infiltrator, there to spy for Seleka. Out came the first knife.
"I will kill him with my own hands," shouted one man who had come to enlist in the national army.
The very men expected to protect civilians used knives, bricks and their own feet to attack the man. The crowd dragged Idriss' corpse through the street, dismembered it and set it ablaze.