WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — The head of the Central African Republic’s Catholic Church accused United Nations peacekeepers of “conspiring with rebel groups” to inflame Christian-Muslim hostility.

The charge comes as a U.N. report highlighted intensifying conflict across the country.

“Some of our compatriots, seeking easy gains and power by anti-democratic means, are allying with foreign mercenaries, mostly from Chad and Sudan,” Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui said in a joint statement with Muslim and Protestant members of the country’s Platform of Religious Confessions.

“The ineffectiveness and unprofessionalism of certain U.N. contingents is deplorable,” the religious leaders said. “Instead of helping provide security for the civilian population, they spend their time conspiring with the rebels to commit crimes of a religious nature.”

The statement said the country’s crisis originated in “bad governance, corruption and clientelism,” as well as in “poverty and the poor wealth distribution.”

The faith leaders also charged that “certain neighboring and foreign countries” were “playing out hidden agendas,” aimed at occupying the country and controlling its resources via armed groups.

“These enemies of the Central African people seek to create conditions for a bloody popular revolt between communities to justify their sordid project,” Cardinal Nzapalainga said in the memorandum, co-signed by the Central African Republic’s chief imam, Kobine Layama, and Protestant pastor Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou.

Troops from the U.N.’s 13,400-strong Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, deployed since 2014, have faced repeated accusations of grave misconduct, leading some African countries to withdraw their contingents.

In January, CAR’s Catholic bishops’ conference said peace was hampered by a lack of cooperation between U.N. and government forces and urged peacekeepers to act more effectively.

In a May 29 report, a U.N. official said violence had spread nationwide over the last year, turning once-safe areas “into war zones” and leaving more than half the population of 4.5 million needing humanitarian assistance.

In their statement, the religious leaders said the international community was denying CAR’s armed forces adequate resources “on the fallacious pretext of an arms embargo,” while rebel militias were being “over-armed in its full view.”

“Violence is being orchestrated with the complicity of mercenaries, shamelessly exploiting a sham division between Christians and Muslims as a diversion,” the statement said.