Tag Archives: CAR

Central Africa Republic – rebels kill 32 in Bakala

Reuters

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 – 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

Wounds remain raw in Central African Republic – sectarian violence continues

IRIN

UN peacekeepers in CAR

The Central African Republic’s new government is struggling to bring an end to three years of war and sectarian violence, its authority undermined by continuing attacks on civilians by the rival mainly Muslim Séléka and Christian anti-Balaka militias.

Six months after Faustin-Archange Touadéra became the country’s first democratically elected president in three years, his plans for security sector reform, reconciliation, and the reintegration of armed groups into society have been undermined by a steady rate of bloodletting.

On 12 October, Séléka rebels – part of an alliance of northern insurgent groups –killed 30 in an attack on a camp for displaced people in the central town of Kaga-Bandoro.

The rebels stabbed and hacked to death people in the camp who had already been made homeless by previous violence, in what local media reported as retaliation for the murder of four young Muslims in the town.

UN peacekeepers based in Kaga-Bandoro shot dead 12 of the attackers.

Last month, the same group of rebels raided the village of Ndomete, 15 km from Kaga-Bandoro, killing at least six people.

Fading hope

Despite high hopes following the election of Touadéra, CAR remains a deeply divided nation, with government authority contested across large sections of this mineral-rich but profoundly poor country.

Séléka fought their way to the capital of Bangui in 2013, staging a coup that led to the establishment of an interim administration.

Their abuses against civilians led to the emergence of “anti-Balaka” self-defence groups, and a wave of sectarian violence in a country that is 80 percent Christian.

In lawless enclaves like Kaga-Bandoro, Séléka control the roads, erecting roadblocks and extorting money.

The violence and intimidation has forced aid workers to suspend programmes in the Kaga-Bandoro area, even though the humanitarian needs are immense. As a result, more than 120,000 are now without food, health, education, and other relief services.

“On the roads, we get robbed once a month on average,” Katy Kabeya, CAR mission chief for the aid agency INTERSOS, told IRIN. “We are in an area where the state has no authority. So the armed groups collect taxes.”

On 29 September, Fabrizio Hochschild, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for CAR, visited Ndomete to hear for himself the concerns of the community, sweeping into the village in a fleet of a dozen vehicles.

The primary issue, he was told, was the lack of security.

“Two weeks ago the anti-Balaka came to our village and said they would protect us. We had nothing to do with them,” Gerard Mambissi told Hochschild. “But Kaga-Bandoro’s Sélékas learned about this and then they came to the village. They stole everything. People were killed.”

Mambissi fled into the bush with his children and stayed for a week, waiting for the situation to calm down.

Blaming the peacekeepers

But the residents of Ndomete are also critical of the performance of the UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA, despite the fact that the same contingent repelled this week’s attack in Kaga-Bandoro.

The areas blue helmets hail from Pakistan, and locals said that as Muslims they are naturally sympathetic to the Séléka.

This sort of sectarian suspicion is rife in a country that is still deeply polarised three years on from the 2013 coup, and communities remain on a short fuse. The 3 October killing of a senior army officer in the predominantly Muslim PK5 district of Bangui triggered reprisal violence in which at least 12 people died.

Among those killed were five men either burned alive or lynched simply because they were members of the Fula ethnic group, from the Muslim north of the country.

Demobilisation delays

More than 384,000 people remain displaced by the violence in CAR, with at least 80 percent of the Muslim population driven out of the county. Reconciliation, and the return of people to now ethnically cleansed old neighbourhoods, remains painfully slow.

“Hostilities between anti-Balaka militias, ex-Séléka rebels, armed Muslim self-defense groups and other armed groups, as well as between international peacekeepers and these groups, continue to pose a threat to populations,” according to an Augustreport by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army has also exploited the security vacuum to expand its operations in the remote south and east of the country.

The report called on UN and remaining French forces in the country to “forcibly disarm groups that continue to threaten populations. MINUSCA must ensure it deploys in adequate numbers to all areas where vulnerable civilians lack sufficient protection.”

But a long-planned demobilisation is a hard sell, and following the latest PK5 violence anti-Balaka groups met to discuss whether they would still participate in the government’s scheme.

After three hours of talks, they decided not to withdraw. But if Séléka groups push for partition of the parts of the country they control, “we will have to fight back”, said anti-Balaka leader Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona.

The anti-Balaka also want assurances that they will be integrated into the army and consulted in government decision-making – two demands the government has already rejected.

That defiance, and the continued lawlessness, leaves little room for optimism that the government will be able to heal CAR’s divisions any time soon.

ed/oa/as

TOP PHOTO: Peacekeepers patrol in Kaga-Bandoro, by Edouard Dropsy

Central African Republic’s legislative elections annulled

Reuters

Central African court cancels legislative polls, orders rerun

Central African Republic’s Constitutional Court has annulled the results of a legislative election, citing irregularities, setting back a transition to democracy after years of conflict.

Observers had praised the peaceful nature of the polls, meant to end a rocky transition period punctuated by violence between militias drawn from the Christian majority and a mostly Muslim alliance of Seleka rebels.

“The court has decided to cancel the (legislative) election of 30 December 2015 and to reschedule it for the whole country,” Zacharie Ndouba, the court’s president, said late on Monday.

He said that some of the candidates appeared to be implicated in the irregularities, adding that more than 400 complaints had been logged.

The court’s decision raises questions over the next steps for the electoral process since the former French colony could now find itself with a president but no new parliament.

Results of the first round of a presidential election held alongside the legislative vote have already been validated by the court. A date for a runoff between former prime ministers Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Faustin-Archange Touadera has yet to be announced.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

UN chief in CAR calls for loosening of arms embargo to rebuild military

Reuters

The head of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in Central African Republic called on the Security Council to loosen an arms embargo against the country and prepare for the rehabilitation of its military.

His request coincides with worsening lawlessness in the capital Bangui, where militia attacks and tit-for-tat violence have killed about 90 people since September, prompting calls from politicians and civilians to rearm the military.

The violence has jeopardised Pope Francis’s plans to visit the country and further delayed elections to Dec. 13.

“The rearming of FACA (the Central African military), a crucial question, is part of the process of security reform,” U.N. mission chief Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said in a statement.

“Central African Republic needs an army that respects republican principles,” he said, without giving a time frame for rearmament.

The U.N. Security Council imposed a weapons embargo on the historically unstable country in December 2013, allowing government security forces to buy arms only if a sanctions committee approves. Government soldiers cannot carry weapons, although police and the gendarmerie can.

Onanga-Anyanga’s comments echoed speeches made by politicians, including from transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza, who called for the United Nations to restore the military’s weapons and said peacekeepers and French troops had failed to protect civilians.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people marched through the capital to demand the army be given weapons. But General Mohamed Dhaffane, the head of one militia faction, has warned that the rearming the military would further undermine security.

Lewis Mudge, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said members of the army had aligned with anti-balaka militias and helped more than 500 inmates escape the Ngaraba prison on Sept. 28.

He warned that disarmament would work only if a thorough vetting process is established to avoid the recruitment of human rights abusers.

U.N. forces said Wednesday anti-balaka militias attacked a convoy it was escorting multiple times, wounding two peacekeepers and a civilian driver. Witnesses said three civilians were killed when peacekeepers opened fire.

MINUSCA is investigating civilian casualties, a U.N. peacekeeping official said.

The 12,000-strong U.N. mission was launched after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation in early 2013, spurring reprisal attacks from mainly Christian anti-balaka militias.

The Seleka later handed power to the transitional government under international pressure.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Emma Farge and Mark Heinrich)

Central African Republic – five killed in violence ahead of Pope’s visit

Reuters

Armed assailants in the Central African Republic’s capital killed two men and three women and set scores of homes ablaze in violence that could further delay elections and derail a visit this month by Pope Francis.

Witnesses said hundreds of people fled their homes in Bangui on Monday after the weekend attack by men from the mainly Muslim PK-5 neighbourhood in which one man had his throat slit and more than a dozen people were shot and wounded.

Brice Kevin Kakayen, a coordinator for the Enfants Sans Frontieres charity, said five were killed, part of a pattern in which at least 90 people have died violently since late September.

President Catherine Samba-Panza called on the U.N. mission to return arms confiscated from the army to allow it to assist in keeping the peace.

She said U.N. peacekeepers had failed to halt the violence and called on the United Nations and International Criminal Court to sanction political leaders behind the unrest.

“Additional efforts must be made to boost the interventions of the international forces and negotiate the placement of advance bases in the neighbourhoods to ensure security at a local level,” she said in a national address.

She exhorted the peacekeepers to take vigorous action so that “Bangui can be secured for the coming events that are crucial for the country. The pope’s visit and the elections should be unifying events for the people of Central Africa.”

POPE TO VISIT MOSQUE

The majority Christian country plunged into tumult when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a coup in 2013, prompting lethal reprisals by mainly Christian militias and repeated bouts of bloodletting since then.

The army was sidelined during the Seleka’s rule. The interim government is yet to rearm it after officers were linked to the militias, known as anti-balaka, that conducted reprisals.

The latest attack appeared to be retaliation for a mob attack on PK-5 on Thursday in which four people were killed.

The pope is due to visit Bangui on Nov. 28-29 and go to a mosque in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods, but he hinted in an address on Sunday that the violence might lead him to cancel the trip.

Families in the Fatima district grabbed bedding and a few possessions and headed to camps for displaced people or to stay with families in the city’s south, witnesses said.

“There is no disarmament in Central Africa. That is why the war still goes on,” said Eugene Gazalima, a farmer and resident of the Fatima district.

U.N. peacekeepers have been stationed in PK-5 since last year. Tens of thousands of Muslims were driven from their homes in the capital last year by anti-balaka groups.

Authorities delayed presidential and parliamentary elections, in part because of the unrest, to Dec. 13, and they may be pushed back again if the violence persists.

A peace deal signed in May between 10 armed groups required them to disarm and possibly be charged with war crimes during the two-year conflict, but brief optimism after the accord seems to have run out.

Nearly 400,000 people have fled to camps during the conflict, and an additional 440,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, according to an October report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Tom Brown)

Central African Republic – hundreds of prisoners escape in Bangui

BBC

A wounded man is carried into the General Hospital in Bangui on September 26, 2015 after unknown assailants opened fire in the PK5 district, a neighbourhood with a majority of Muslim residents.AFP/Getty Images At least 30 people have been killed in the CAR over the past three days

Hundreds of inmates at a prison in the Central African Republic have escaped as a wave of violence left dozens dead.

After a Muslim taxi driver was killed, clashes erupted on Saturday between Christian militia and Muslim groups.

Members of a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka attacked the prison on Monday, freeing hundreds of soldiers and militiamen.

The CAR has been wracked by violence since a mainly Muslim rebel group, the Seleka, seized power in March 2013.

The Seleka group was then ousted, sparking a wave of violent reprisals against the Muslim population, thousands of whom fled their homes.

‘No-one in the prison’

Since the latest upturn in violence began at the weekend, more than 30 people have been killed.

The United Nations children’s agency, Unicef, said at least three teenagers had been killed, with one beheaded.

Prisoners escaped from the Ngaragba jail in the capital Bangui on Monday evening. “There is no-one in the prison,” Reuters news agency quoted a senior security source as saying.

Thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace on Monday to call for greater power for the army, which has seen its powers reduced since an interim government was installed in January 2014.

Interim President Catherine Samba Panza has cut short her trip to the UN General Assembly.

Presidential elections are scheduled for October, a month before Pope Francis visits Bangui.