Tag Archives: anti-Balaka

Central Africa Republic – rebels kill 32 in Bakala


Rebels in Central African Republic killed at least 32 civilians after clashes with a rival armed group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, a sign of the fighters’ growing boldness amid limited state authority.

Despite successful elections last year that were seen as a step toward reconciliation after years of civil conflict, the government and a 13,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission have struggled to contain killing sprees by rebel groups.

The Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) rebels carried out the killings on Dec. 12 in the town of Bakala, where they had been fighting the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPRC), HRW said in a statement.

The UPC lured 25 of the civilians to a local school where it shot them after killing seven others earlier the same day, HRW said. At least 29 other civilians have been killed in fighting around Bakala since late November, it added.

“They certainly feel emboldened to commit worse and worse crimes,” said HRW researcher Lewis Mudge of the rebels in an interview, adding the civilians were likely targeted because they were thought to be allied with rival groups.

Both the FPRC and UPC are former members of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance that united to oust then-President Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

But the two groups have since fallen out over competition for territory and control of tax revenues. The Muslim FPRC are now allied with the Christian anti-balaka, an indication of the waning role of ideology in the conflict.

On Wednesday, the government appointed a prosecutor to a U.N.-backed special criminal court created to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity, a potential first step toward bringing rebel leaders to justice.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Aaron Ross and Toby Chopra)

Central African Republic – UN air strike hits militant fighters


A top militant and three others were killed in Central African Republic when a U.N. helicopter fired on fighters advancing towards the town of Bambari, a rebel group said on Sunday.

The UN’s mission known as MINUSCA shot at fighters from the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPRC), on Saturday after they crossed a “red line” it had set north of the town, said spokesman Vladimir Monteiro.

“We were looking to prevent war in Bambari,” he said, referring to the town about 250 km (155 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui.

A death toll had not yet been established, he added.

The FPRC is the largest group within a mostly Muslim rebellion formerly known as Seleka which ousted then-President Francois Bozize in 2013.

Months of reprisal killings between Muslims and Christians ensued, resulting in thousands of deaths, until elections last year ushered in relative calm.

“MINUSCA used air strikes yesterday against our fighters near Ippy,” said Azor Kanite, the FPRC’s deputy commander. “Our top commander (Joseph Zonduko) and three civilians were killed by the bombings,” he added.

Despite multiple attempts to promote dialogue and disarmament between fighters in the aftermath of last year’s polls, flare-ups in the former French colony are common.

Since November, FPRC fighters have been fighting the mostly Fulani Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) around Bambari, killing dozens and displacing around 20,000 people.

The U.N.’s top genocide official said in November that the FPRC had singled out ethnic Fulani in the town of Bria, carrying out house-to-house searches, killing, looting and abducting residents.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kete in Bangui and Emma Farge in Dakar; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Central African Republic – Amnesty says war crimes going unpunished


DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Perpetrators of war crimes including murder and rape in Central African Republic are going unpunished and fuelling worsening violence in the country, Amnesty International said on Wednesday as it called for funds to rebuild the national justice system.

Dozens of people suspected of committing war crimes and other rights abuses have avoided investigation and arrest, and some are living alongside their victims in a nation divided along ethnic and religious lines, the human rights group said.

“The national justice system is on its knees. It was weak prior to the conflict and collapsed in 2013,” Amnesty researcher Ilaria Allegrozzi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“Thousands of victims of human rights abuses are still waiting for justice to be served, while individuals who have committed horrific crimes like murder and rape roam free.”

Central African Republic has been plagued by conflict since March 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Despite a February election seen as a step toward reconciliation, Amnesty said a lack of justice had contributed to an increase in violent clashes in recent months.

Few courts are running outside of the capital Bangui, and just eight out of 35 prisons in the country are functional, with poor security resulting in several prison breaks, Amnesty said.

The country’s U.N. peacekeeping mission, which civilians say does not do enough to protect them from armed groups, has helped authorities arrest 384 people for crimes linked to the conflict between September 2014 and October 2016, the report said.

Yet this figures includes only a handful of high-profile individuals suspected of having committed the most serious crimes, according to the rights group.

In addition to rebuilding its courts, prisons and police force, the country must set up as soon as possible the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid court of national and international judges to try individuals suspected of war crimes, Amnesty said.

More funding is needed to ensure the court can run for at least five years, and donor countries should also help by nominating qualified judges and legal staff, the report said.

“Sustainable funding for the Special Criminal Court, including robust witness protection programmes, is an essential step towards justice,” Allegrozzi said.

The Central African Republic government could not be reached for comment.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Two Moroccan peacekeepers with UN killed in Central African Republic


Two Moroccan U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic were killed and two others wounded by unknown attackers in the southeast of the country, the U.N. mission there said on Wednesday.

The peacekeepers were escorting fuel trucks on Tuesday afternoon about 60 kilometres (37 miles) west of the town of Obo when they were attacked, the mission said in a statement, adding that the assailants fled into the bush.

“No claim can justify individuals directing their grievances against peacekeepers whose presence on CAR soil is only aimed at helping the country emerge from the cycle of violence,” mission head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said in the statement.

Central African Republic descended into chaos in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation, ousting then-President Francois Bozize and sparking a backlash from Christian militias.

The U.N. mission has 13,000 peacekeepers on the ground, but some civilians complain that it does not do enough to protect them against dozens of armed groups.

Last month, U.N. sanctions monitors said that violence was spreading despite successful polls that elected a new government last February. Human Rights Watch said a new armed group had killed at least 50 civilians in a growing campaign to control parts of the northwest.

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi and Aaron Ross; editing by John Stonestreet)

Central African Republic – 3 Rs group emerges and causes mayhem

Human Rights Watch/allAfrica

20 DECEMBER 2016
Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC) 

Central African Republic: Mayhem By New Group

Nairobi — A recently formed armed group called “Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation,” or 3R, has killed civilians, raped, and caused largescale displacement over the past year in northwest Central African Republic. United Nations peacekeepers in the area have been unable to fully protect civilians.

In April and May 2016, 3R increased its attacks on villages in the Koui sub-prefecture, allegedly in retaliation for anti-balaka activity. On September 27, 3R attacked the town of De Gaulle, the sub-prefecture capital, with about 20,000 people, and other villages in the area. 3R deny they have committed any abuses.
Anti-balaka, under the command of a self-proclaimed general, Abbas Rafal, have also killed Peuhl civilians and fighters in and around Bocaranga, where Human Rights Watch saw dozens of armed anti-balaka fighters moving freely in late November. Human Rights Watch also saw at least 100 armed 3R fighters in De Gaulle.
On November 22, Sidiki told Human Rights Watch by telephone that all his men respect human rights and denied allegations of abuse. On November 25, Human Rights Watch met with a spokesman for 3R, who goes only by the name Bashir and refused to give his family name, and the group’s general secretary, Patrick Gombado. Both men admitted that 3R had attacked De Gaulle – because of the anti-balaka presence in the town, they said.
Bashir told Human Rights Watch that some 3R fighters had stolen private property for personal use during the attack because: “It is combat,” he said. “But we do not pillage as a group.” Bashir claimed the group does “try to address this type of indiscipline” but did not specify how. Both men denied that 3R fighters had committed any unlawful killings or rapes.
On November 26, Rafal told Human Rights Watch that his group executed Peuhl suspected of being spies “even if they are unarmed.”
Human Rights Watch confirmed two such killings in November. Anti-balaka fighters also raped at least six women and girls in 2016, according to people providing services to survivors and monitoring sexual violence in the area.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that Sidiki arrived in the area in 2015 and held meetings in several villages around Koui, saying 3R’s goal was to ensure that Peuhl could live in peace with other inhabitants of the area. But fighters associated with 3R soon began attacking these villages, they said, ostensibly provoked by anti-balaka attacks on Peuhl and cattle theft by both anti-balaka and local residents.
The attacks increased in 2016. On September 27, 3R carried out its largest attack, on De Gaulle. Human Rights Watch documented 17 civilians who were killed during or just after the attack, and the total number is probably higher as many people remain missing.
People monitoring sexual violence in the area, who did not want to be identified due to security concerns, said they received reports of rapes of 23 women and girls by 3R fighters during and after the De Gaulle attack.
Human Rights Watch interviewed two women and one girl who gave accounts of Sidiki’s men raping them. Two of the survivors said that their children witnessed the rapes. “Blandine,” a 30-year-old woman from De Gaulle, told Human Rights Watch that 3R fighters broke into her home:
One said, “Where is your husband?” I said that he was not there… One of them cocked his gun and pointed it at me and said, “We are going to have sex with you.” He threw me on the ground and [one of them] raped me. Another was waiting for his turn, but there was shooting outside while the first one was finishing, so when he was done they both left… . [M]y two younger children were right beside me, crying.
As of December 13, groups that provide services to rape victims had limited access to the area because of security concerns.
The UN peacekeeping force in the country, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), has 12,870 forces in the country, including about 100 combat ready soldiers in Bocaranga and 100 in De Gaulle.
UN officers in Bocaranga told Human Rights Watch on November 26 that they are trying to conduct as many patrols as possible with the combat-ready men they have, but admit that both the 3R and anti-balaka are emboldened to circulate freely with their guns. They said that all information is sent to Bangui, the capital, but no troop increase to the region was expected.

Consistent with the mission’s mandate, MINUSCA should take steps to protect civilians, including older people, women, and girls, and including by use of force. MINUSCA should also take steps to ensure access to life-saving services, including comprehensive post-rape medical and mental health care.
The crimes committed in the area fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose prosecutor opened investigations into crimes in the country in September 2014, as well as the Special Criminal Court (SCC), a new judicial body with national and international judges and prosecutors that has a mandate to investigate and prosecute grave human rights violations in the country since 2003. The SCC offers a meaningful opportunity to hold accountable commanders from all parties to the conflict responsible for war crimes, and needs sustained international support, Human Rights Watch said.
Extrajudicial killings, targeted killings of civilians, rape, and other forms of sexual violence all violate international humanitarian law and may be prosecuted as war crimes. International humanitarian law also strictly prohibits parties to non-international armed conflicts from resorting to acts of revenge or any countermeasures against civilians or fighters who have ceased to take a direct part in hostilities.
The 3R attacks come at a time of increasing unrest and violence in the center of the country, particularly in Kaga-Bandoro, Bria, and Bambari.
“The national government and MINUSCA face immense problems, but they need to help stop the violence in the northwest and reassert some degree of the rule of law,” Mudge said. “Sidiki and Rafal should be warned that they are being watched and will be judged for their actions.”
Central African Republic in Crisis
The Central African Republic has been in crisis since late 2012, when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels began a military campaign against the government of Francois Bozizé. The Seleka took control of Bangui in March 2013. Their rule was marked by widespread human rights abuses, including the wanton killing of civilians. In mid-2013, Christian and animist anti-balaka militia organized to fight the Seleka. Associating all Muslims with the Seleka, the anti-balaka carried out large scale reprisal attacks against Muslim civilians in Bangui and western parts of the country.
Since 2013, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases in which anti-balaka militias, civilians and Seleka groups have targeted the Peuhl.
3R (Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation)
The 3R spokesman, Bashir, and its general secretary, Gombado, assert that 3R is not a rebel group but a resistance movement to defend Peuhl from violence that is expanding into the Nana-Mambéré, Ouham Pendé, and Mambéré-Kadéï provinces. They said 3R wants national authorities to return to De Gaulle, which they left after the September 27 attack, but that 3R will keep its guns until anti-balaka are disarmed and Peuhl are protected.
Local leaders said that relations with Sidiki and 3R were amicable at first but then anti-balaka increased their activity in the area and 3R started attacking villages. One local official who did not wish to be named explained:
Sidiki said he was there to protect herders who had been attacked and, in order to do so, he had to form a group. He said he was not a rebel but was there to protect Peuhl and he wanted the authorities to be aware of his presence. He also said he was ready to go into DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, a joint disarmament program of the national government and MINUSCA] if the anti-balaka were not a threat. But then he changed his position and started to attack villages. He attacked Boumari in 2015 and then the attacks just increased. Now he has destroyed the sub-prefecture.
Another local official said that the violence worsened in April, when the anti-balaka started to attack Sidiki’s men. “Sidiki sent his men to burn villages and to kill under the pretext that the people were hiding anti-balaka and stealing cows,” he said.
Bashir and Gombado said they sell cattle to procure weapons from the black market but they denied allegations of murder and rape. “Not one civilian has been killed by our men,” Bashir told Human Rights Watch. “Not one woman has been raped. There has been no violence committed by our men in De Gaulle or in Koui.”
Attacks on Koui Villages
According to local authorities, residents, and others monitoring conditions in the area, 3R has attacked at least 13 villages in Koui sub-prefecture since November 2015. Anti-balaka were present in some of these villages but, local residents said, they quickly fled, leaving civilians to bear the brunt of the attacks. Human Rights Watch spoke with residents of nine villages who described these attacks.
In November 2015, days after Sidiki had assured the villagers that his men would not target civilians, 3R fighters attacked Boumari, about 40 kilometers from De Gaulle, and killed the village chief, 75-year-old Abel Ndombe. “The chief did not run when he saw the fighters because he thought it was safe to talk to them,” a witness said. “He approached them and they shot him in the throat.”
On January 23, 3R fighters attacked Sangodoro, a village 22 kilometers south of De Gaulle. A witness said:
It was around 5:30 a.m. and I heard shooting in the village. I ran like everyone else into the woods. From the woods we watched the attackers burn the village. It was Sidiki’s men; we could tell by their uniforms. I saw the bodies of two people [both civilians] from the village, Desa Amado and Anicet.y

Central African Republic – violence still widespread and worsening says UN


By Michelle Nichols and Joe Bavier | UNITED NATIONS/ABIDJAN

Violent clashes are spreading in Central African Republic despite successful polls that elected a new government earlier this year, U.N. sanctions monitors have reported to the Security Council.

The new government of Faustin-Archange Touadera has limited control outside the capital Bangui and has failed to convince the dozens of armed factions around the country to lay down their weapons, according to their report.

Central African Republic descended into chaos in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation, toppling President Francois Bozize and sparking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Touadera was sworn in as president in March, raising hopes for stability after a wave of ethnic cleansing and the nation’s de facto partition into a Muslim northeast and Christian southwest.

“The newly elected Central African government has not been able to come to grips with a deteriorating security situation, observed since June 2016,” the monitors wrote in the unpublished report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

France, which intervened in December 2013 to stop an escalation of civilian deaths, ended its peacekeeping mission in October, leaving security largely in the hands of MINUSCA, a 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.

The U.N. experts, who are charged with monitoring a U.N.-imposed sanctions regime and arms embargo, found the previously localised fighting within the former Seleka rebel coalition and against anti-balaka has “grown more severe and widespread”.

“Moreover, violent incidents in Bangui and the hinterland are increasingly interconnected, with political agendas entwined in the fighting,” the report stated.

Nourredine Adam – the target of U.N. sanctions and leader of the FRPC, one of the main rebel factions – has so far failed to reunite Seleka, which means “coalition” in the local Sango language.

The UPC, another ex-Seleka group dominated by ethnic Fulanis, has extended its territory to control diamond mining areas and arms trafficking routes from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the report said.

Friction between the two groups led to deadly clashes in the town of Bria last month.

Attempts to reconstitute Seleka have galvanized some anti-balaka groups in the southwest following the return from exile of ex-President Bozize’s son, Jean-Francis Bozize, the monitors wrote.

“Since his return, Jean-Francis Bozize has maintained and developed his networks among anti-balaka groups and (army) officers in Bangui,” the report said. “(His) return is a source of concern for President Touadera and may explain the recent establishment of a presidential security guard.”

(Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Can pledges of $2.2bn bring peace to Central African Republic?


Crispin Dembassa-Kette

A regular contributor to IRIN based in Bangui

Central African Republic, plagued by insecurity and a related humanitarian crisis, has been pledged $2.2 billion by international donors as part of a five-year rescue plan. It’s a lot of money, but will it really make a difference to the troubled country?

The funding is a vote of confidence in President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, sworn in six months ago. In November, his government presented donors in Brussels with a peace and recovery plan to lift CAR out of the crisis it’s been in for at least the past three years, and arguably for the last two decades.

The plan focuses on three broad areas: peace, security, and national reconciliation; revived basic services, especially education and health; and finally, economic recovery.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini considered the Brussels meeting a success. “Our EU pledge today will support the efforts of the national government’s ambitious reform agenda to give its population the peace, security and economic prosperity they deserve,” she said in a statement at the time.

But arriving back in the capital, Bangui, Touadéra was more downbeat, warning that the spending taps were not about to open. “It is when we start projects that we will use these funds progressively to build schools, hospitals, repair roads and solve the displacement issue,” he said.

Some CAR commentators were even dismissive of the amount pledged. As Joseph Bendounga, a former mayor of Bangui, told IRIN: in a country with a population of four million, the funding on offer works out at $500 per person.

It’s “very little” he said, and pointed to the risk of corruption.

But more money may not even be the priority right now.

“This funding is only going to be effective if there’s security outside Bangui to allow humanitarians to do their work and to allow services to get up and running,” Human Rights Watch researcher Lewis Mudge told IRIN.

Hundreds of internally displaced people gather at Bangui’s M'poko International Airport in the Central African Republic.
A. Greco/UNHCR
Displaced camp at Bangui’s international airport

One in two need help

CAR is in disarray. The state is weak, and large swathes of the country are controlled by armed groups. Violence and intimidation forced humanitarian agencies to suspend work in the central town of Kaga-Bandoro in September.

According to the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, some 2.3 million people out of a population of 4.6 million are currently in need of aid; 385,000 people have been made homeless; and 452,000 have been forced to flee the country.

Fighting has been ongoing since December 2012, when a coalition of rebels known as Séléka, claiming to represent the country’s aggrieved Muslim minority in the northeast, fought their way south to Bangui.

Their indiscriminate killing and looting triggered retaliation by an umbrella of largely Christian vigilante groups known as anti-Balaka. The country remains split along sectarian lines, as armed men exploit their power to extort civilians, and engage in brutal revenge killings.

Séléka is a coalition rather than a united front. In late November, fighting between two Séléka factions in the central town of Bria left at least 14 civilians and 115 combatants dead.

The battle was over control of the road – and therefore “taxes” – to diamond mines in the region. In a country that is sorely underdeveloped, with few regular job opportunities, its abundant natural resources are worth fighting over.

“[The warlords] who benefit from the conflict need to stop,” Joseph Bindoumi, president of the Central African League for Human Rights, told IRIN.

“If they stop treating war like an industry, from that moment on, the donors will be able to fund CAR and we will come out of the situation we are currently in.”

Seleka rebels
UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina
Seleka rebels in Bambari, 400km northeast of Bangui

The inability of the 246 UN peacekeepers stationed in Bria to protect civilians has added to the growing criticism of the MINUSCA force. It was yet another example of the peacekeepers’ perceived passivity in the face of real opposition.

On 12 October, Séléka attacked a camp for displaced people in Kaga-Bandoro. They stabbed and hacked to death people in the camp who had already been made homeless by previous violence, despite the presence of a contingent of peacekeepers.

In an angry demonstration in Bangui weeks later demanding the withdrawal of the 12,870-strong MINUSCA force, four people were killed. It’s unclear if the protestors shot by Burundian peacekeepers were armed.

No rule of law

Insecurity is tied to impunity. “[The warlords] are in such powerful positions, there is no benefit for them to stopping or stepping down. They lose their tax base and they lose their protection,” said Mudge.

The withdrawal of French troops who intervened under operation Sangaris, and along with African Union troops stabilised Bangui, is another question mark over stability.

Anti-MINUSCA demo
An anti-MINUSCA demo in Bangui in 2014

Mudge believes that a case can be made for a more robust UN deployment, similar to the Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where elite units backed by attack helicopters scored initial successes against M23 rebels.

A priority for the government has been to negotiate the disarmament and reintegration of armed groups. The country has been here many times before in the course of its violent past, and the talks are currently stalled over demands by the warlords.

Some Séléka are calling for partition, while the anti-Balaka want assurances they will be integrated into the army and consulted in government decision-making – demands the government will not agree to.

But Touadéra, a former maths professor, lacks leverage. The country is under a UN arms embargo, which includes what remains of the national army. An exemption has been made for two battalions being trained by the EU, but they won’t be up and ready until next year.

In the meantime, the insecurity is undermining his popularity.

“Most citizens are exhausted by war, impatient for progress, and frustrated by lack of action,” said US Institute of Peace expert Fiona Mangan. “The honeymoon is definitely over for the new government.”


TOP PHOTO: Men at work on the MINUSCA compound in Bria. CREDIT: UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina