Tag Archives: CAR

Central Africa – militia violence leaves 300 dead

Reuters

DAKAR Militia violence in Central African Republic has killed around 300 people and displaced 100,000 in the last two weeks, the United Nations and the government said on Thursday, in the worse displacement since a 2013 civil war.

The violence marks a sharp escalation in the long conflict that began when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition overthrew then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, prompting reprisals from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Fighting in the last two weeks has hit the towns of Bria, Bangassou and Alindao, all hundreds of kilometres east of the capital Bangui, the U.N. humanitarian office and the minister of social affairs said in a joint statement.

“It’s a catastrophe,” Social Affairs Minister Virginie Baikoua told journalists after a visit on Wednesday to Bria. “Houses are burnt down, others pillaged … The displaced are afraid it could degenerate at any moment because armed men are roaming around the camps.”

More than 41,400 of Bria’s 47,500 inhabitants were displaced by fighting between May 15 and 18, the statement said.

The Red Cross said last week it had found 115 bodies in Bangassou, a diamond-mining area on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo after it was seized by hundreds of militia with heavy weaponry.

U.N. peacekeepers, part of a 13,000-strong force, have since secured Bangassou and reinforced their positions in other areas, the mission (MINUSCA) said in a statement.

Around 440,000 people were displaced throughout the country by the end of April and that number could reach 500,000 by the end of May. That would represent the most displaced since the height of the crisis in 2013, the U.N. humanitarian office said.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Additional reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

 

Central African Republic rebels turn on each other as violence flares

IRIN

Fighters of the UPC militia in the Central African Republic town of Bambari

Philip Kleinfeld/IRIN

Freelance journalist and IRIN contributor

On both sides of the rutted, 200-kilometre dirt road that runs from Bria to Bambari in Central African Republic, villages lie empty and desolate. Cramped mud huts with thatched roofs have been reduced to ashes and rubble. Everything of value has been looted.

In Goumba – a small, Christian village to the west of Bria – Ludovic Valongere sat by the side of the road scooping cooked insects out of a large plastic bowl. He had returned two days earlier to bury his brother, killed when rebels from a group called the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) swept into the village a few months before.

“We were hiding from the rebels in the bush with no food,” Valongere, 38, explained. “One day my brother decided to return to Goumba for supplies but the rebels were still there. When they found him, they shot him in the head.”

To Valongere’s right a large pot of alcohol bubbled over an open fire in preparation for the funeral. Save the militiamen that sat languidly beside nearby checkpoints, it wasn’t clear anybody from the deserted village would be brave enough to attend.

Central African Republic has been wracked by periodic bouts of conflict since a largely Muslim rebel alliance called the Séléka overthrew the government of Francois Bozizé in 2013, triggering reprisals from a Christian militia called anti-balaka.

Now it is descending into levels of violence some say have not been seen since the peak of the conflict in 2014. Recent clashes between armed groups have left hundreds dead, villages like Goumba destroyed, and more than 100,000 displaced.

Days of fighting this week in the southeastern town of Bangassou killed 115, according to the Red Cross, while fighting in Bria left five dead and 15,000 displaced according to the UN. The week prior also saw five UN peacekeepers killed around Bangassou after their convoy was attacked by anti-balaka.

A fight between factions

Much of the current upsurge in violence is being caused by two factions of the now disbanded Séléka fighting one other. On one side is the Fulani-dominated UPC; on the other an ad hoc coalition of rebel groups lead by the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC). The new coalition includes elements of the anti-balaka, the FPRC’s sworn enemies just a few months ago.

A rift between the FPRC and UPC first emerged in 2014 when the former called for an independent state in northern CAR, a proposal rejected by the latter. Preferring to operate independently, UPC leader Ali Darassa has since rebuffed multiple FPRC calls to reunify the Séléka, threatening the FPRC’s hegemony over CAR’s rebel movement and resource-rich territory.

A man holds a home-made rifle in the Central African Republic
Philip Kleinfeld/IRIN
Valongere’s brother was killed by rebels while looking for food

Clashes between the groups erupted around a gold mine in Ndassima in late 2016 and have since morphed into a full-blown bush war.

At the beginning of the year, fighting was clustered around Bambari, a UPC stronghold wanted by the FPRC. Desperate to prevent a battle in the city, which hosts tens of thousands of internally displaced people – the UN’s peacekeeping force, MINUSCA, deployed attack helicopters to stop FPRC rebels from advancing, while simultaneously negotiating the removal of Darassa.

Bolder blue helmets

The operation was considered a success for a mission that has often failed its mandate to protect civilians. “There was a willingness by MINUSCA to use much more robust force to deter attacks,” said Evan Cinq-Mars, who works at the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a New York-based nonprofit, as United Nations advocate and policy advisor.

But while preventing a bloodbath in Bambari – CAR’s second largest town – the operation failed to prevent violence from spreading to other parts of the country. Dislodged from its stronghold, the UPC went in search of new territory. So did the FPRC, according to a UN source, “looking to compensate for the huge material losses sustained at the hands of MISUSCA in the battle for Bambari”.

In March, UPC and anti-balaka elements clashed around the town of Goubali 2. In April, more clashes were reported in Bakouma and Nzako. And more recently, 56 civilians are thought to have died in Alindao, 100 kilometres south of Bambari.

In the past, MINUSCA has been able to count on the presence of Ugandan soldiers and US special forces to help deter fighting in a part of the country where its peacekeepers are thinly spread.

Security vacuum 

Both countries had troops stationed in the southeast as part of a campaign to capture Joseph Kony, leader of the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group. But that mission has now ended and, as troops withdraw, a dangerous “security vacuum” is emerging, according to Paul Ronan, researcher with Invisible Children.

“Ugandan troops had a presence in places like Nzako until relatively recently and did not allow fighting of this nature to occur,” Ronan said. “The violence we have seen in the last two weeks shows the withdrawal of US and more significantly Ugandan troops is creating a vacuum that other armed groups can fill.”

While the current conflict is primarily rooted in a struggle for power over land and CAR’s mineral-rich resources, violence is also following ethnic lines. Anti-balaka and FPRC have targeted Fulani civilians associated with the UPC, and UPC fighters have targeted non-Fulani in response.

“We’re seeing the conflict morph into these reprisal killings,” said Lewis Mudge, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “A couple of Fulani are killed, then a couple of non-Fulani are killed in return. They increase and increase until we get to massacres of 15 to 20 civilians.”

A camp for displaced people in Bria, Central African Republic
Philip Kleinfeld/IRIN
Some 1,500 displaced people live in a makeshift camp in the town of Bria

Pushed out of FPRC territory in Bria last November, the UPC went on a rampage, killing, looting, and burning villages like Goumba where many Christians lived.

At a makeshift camp beside a UN base in Bria, 1,500 Christians from across the region are now living in deplorable conditions. Stood arms folded in front of a flimsy tent, 50-year-old Josephene Lengba said UPC combatants forced her family of 15 to flee in late March after the rebels “killed [people] and burnt down homes”.

Dead unburied

“We saw the people that they had killed,” she said. “There were many of them. Some of the dead people were lying on the ground for many days because there was nobody to bury them. [Eventually] we fled to the bush. If we hadn’t, they might have killed us too.”

On the other side of town Fulani civilians in Bria are living in enclaves under the protection of UN peacekeepers. Those that leave face harassment, extortion, and in some cases death.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, 40-year-old Abdouley Aiclia said her Fulani husband was decapitated, stuffed in a large plastic bag and thrown into a river. Now she is unable to feed her four children.

“There is nobody that can help me,” she said, cradling her youngest and nervously thumbing an amulet.

Even the enclaves are dangerous. In late March, anti-balaka breached a UN checkpoint and attacked the population with spears and hunting rifles.

“Go! Kill them! Slaughter them!” Yerima Ahmatou, remembers hearing as he was praying at the local mosque. Three people were shot, he said, including one in the eye.

FPRC general Ibrahim Alawa denied the group is targeting Fulani civilians.

“Our problem is Ali Darassa,” said the coarse 54-year-old, based in Bria. “He has decided to be King of the Fulani and wants to make them into an army. We tried to tell him: ‘We are one country, you can’t rule with one wing.’”

Them and us

But the FPRC has repeatedly cast the UPC as a foreign force, playing on a stereotype that views the traditionally nomadic cattle-herding Fulani community as outsiders.

As things stand, mutual antipathy towards Fulani has been enough to hold together an improbable alliance with anti-balaka. But few believe it will last for long.

“I don’t think these groups have established any degree of the Central African brotherhood that they claim,” said Mudge. “Once the Fulani have been marginalised, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if they start attacking each other again.”

As well as civilians, international interveners also face an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable environment.

Last week’s attack on UN peacekeepers, “was the deadliest incident against MINUSCA since being deployed”, said Cinq-Mars. “We haven’t seen anything like this in terms of the sheer scale of deaths and injuries”.

Meanwhile, 33 incidents targeting humanitarians were recorded during the first quarter of the year, including 16 since March in the northern province of Ouham.

“We are not able to deliver [aid] anymore,” said Kathy M. Kabeya, head of mission for INTERSOS, an Italian NGO that recently suspended operations in the Ouham region. “We need humanitarian access. We need to reach these people. They rely 100 percent on humanitarian assistance.”

New fighting and access challenges are aggravating an already underfunded humanitarian crisis. In Bria, displaced people face squalid conditions with scant food, water, or medical supplies.

“We don’t have money to buy anything to eat,” said 34-year-old Roger Mapouka, laughing grimly as a storm turned the camp into a swamp. “We just sit here like this.”

pk/am/ag

Central African republic – UN says death toll could reach 30

Reuters

By Serge Leger Kokopakpa

BANGUI (Hundreds of civilians are seeking refuge inside a mosque in the Central African Republic’s border town of Bangassou amid ongoing attacks by Christian militias that have killed up to 30 civilians, U.N. officials and aid workers said on Sunday.

The attacks throughout the weekend on the town of Bangassou on the Congolese border have involved hundreds of fighters with heavy weaponry and appeared to be aimed at Muslims, they said, in the latest sign that the multi-year conflict is worsening.

The U.N. base there has also been targeted, prompting the deployment of extra troops to the remote town on Sunday in anticipation of further attacks. They had succeeded in partly securing the town by dusk, said Herve Verhoosel, spokesman for the U.N. mission (MINUSCA).

“The situation is extremely deplorable and we are doing everything to rapidly retake control of Bangassou,” MINUSCA chief Parfait Onanga-Anyanga told Reuters in an interview.

Asked about the civilian death toll, he added: “It is clear that we are looking at numbers that could easily reach 20 to 30.” Many of the fighters are child soldiers who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, he added.

Local Red Cross President Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo said gunfire continued to ring out from the town on Sunday, blocking attempts by his organisation and others to reach the wounded and recover the dead.

In recent months, roaming militias spurred by ethnic and religious rivalries have stepped up violence despite pledges to take part in a government-led disarmament programme.

Aid workers say that militias seem to be exploiting security voids after Ugandan and French soldiers left in the past few months when their missions ended.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday he was “outraged” by the attacks on the 13,000-strong mission that have killed six peacekeepers around Bangassou, an area previously sheltered from conflict.

Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji condemned the attacks in a statement on local radio on Sunday and said those responsible would be brought to justice.

Central African Republic has been plagued by inter-religious violence since 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and ousted then-President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from anti-balaka militias drawn from the Christian minority.

More than 400,000 people in the former French colony are displaced internally and 2.2 million, or nearly half the population, are reliant on aid.

(Additional reporting and writing by Emma Farge in Dakar; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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)