UN rights group alarmed by surging CAR violence


Senegalese United Nations peacekeeping soldiers ride a pickup truck while on patrol in Bangui, Central African Republic, April 24, 2017.

BANGUI – The United Nations human rights chief has expressed grave alarm over the spread of violence by armed groups against the civilian population in several parts of the Central African Republic (CAR) in recent months, as well as attacks against UN peacekeepers in the country’s southeast.

“Violence and rising tensions are spreading to areas of the CAR that had previously been spared the kinds of terrifying violence seen in some other parts of the country – this is highly worrying and should set off loud alarm bells,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a news release from his Office (OHCHR) on Tuesday.

“The hard-earned relative calm in Bangui and some of the bigger towns in CAR risks being eclipsed by the descent of some rural areas into increasing sectarian violence, with defenceless civilians – as usual – paying the highest price,” he added.

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The latest in a series of attacks was an incident this weekend in Bangassou, in which armed men used heavy weapons to attack the base of the UN mission in CAR, known by its French acronym MINUSCA.

The armed men also attacked a Muslim neighbourhood, where numerous civilians were killed and others wounded.

Investigations by MINUSCA’s Human Rights Division suggest that between March and May 2017 more than 121 civilians and six peacekeepers were killed, excluding figures in the two latest incidents.

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Zeid also noted the fact that the Special Criminal Court is preparing to start its work is a strong signal by the authorities and the international community that the continued climate of impunity is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the Security Council issued a statement to the press strongly condemning the violence by anti-Balaka elements in Bangassou on May 13 and 14 that targeted MINUSCA’s field office, civilian populations from particular communities, as well as humanitarian personnel.