Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Land of Central Africa’

UN report shows hundreds of Central African Republic abuses

May 30, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A sweeping new United Nations report identifies hundreds of human rights violations in Central African Republic since 2003 that may amount to war crimes, including massacres, gang rapes and entire villages burned to the ground.

Tuesday’s report comes amid growing fears that the country terrorized by multiple armed groups is once again slipping into the sectarian bloodshed that left thousands dead between late 2013 and 2015. U.N. investigators highlight more than 600 abuses over a 12-year period, and are urging both prosecution and the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission. While the report refrains from identifying the alleged perpetrators unless they are already the subject of sanctions or an arrest warrant, those identities are known and are being kept in a confidential database, officials said.

“In documenting the violations and abuses of the past, we hope to galvanize national and international efforts to protect and bring justice to the victims of these crimes,” said Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the U.N. special representative for the country.

The International Criminal Court is already examining abuses dating back to 2003 in Central African Republic. While the U.N. report does not characterize the worst sectarian violence as genocide, it does “identify facts which may warrant further investigation to determine whether the elements of the crime may have been met.”

Central African Republic exploded into violence in late 2013 after mostly Muslim rebels from the Seleka coalition terrorized civilians in the capital until the Seleka leader stepped down from power. A mainly Christian militia that arose in opposition to the rebels then carried out horrific violence against Muslim civilians in retaliation, even though few of them supported Seleka in the first place.

At one point, Muslims were stoned to death with rocks by mobs in the street, at times decapitated and mutilated. Those fleeing for their lives in truck convoys to the country’s north and beyond to Chad were slain by mobs in many cases.

Violence ebbed with the installation of a civilian transitional government and with the arrival of U.N. peacekeepers who replaced a regional force. The country held fairly peaceful national elections in 2016, though this year has seen an explosion of sectarian conflict in areas previously untouched by such tensions such as the southeast.

The fragile peace is in many ways maintained by separation. Many towns no longer have Muslim communities after people fled and never returned. Mosques have been destroyed. More than 500,000 people remain internally displaced while others remain in neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Congo, officials said.

While Tuesday’s report urges justice to be done, it also offers a grim view of the challenges: Armed groups still control more than half the country. Most courts were looted and destroyed during the rampant violence by armed groups.

“The number of police personnel, their equitable deployment across the country and the resources available to them, considering the country’s vast geography, are wanting,” the report says. “Magistrates appointed to the courts in many of the provinces and other judiciary personnel often choose to remain in Bangui because of insecurity and a lack of amenities for their work and welfare. Virtually all the country’s lawyers are based in Bangui.”

Any criminal proceedings must include those equipped to work with sexual violence survivors, the report says. More than 650 victims were reported between December 2013 and July 2014 alone. In one case, a single victim was raped by up to 20 perpetrators, the report says.

It references the recent case of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre as one possible example. Habre was convicted last year of crimes against humanity in a special court set up Senegal. The charges included rape and forced sexual slavery carried out by subordinates under the legal principle of “command responsibility.”

Tuesday’s report says the violence committed by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels could constitute crimes against humanity, along with the retaliatory violence carried out by the mostly Christian anti-Balaka against Muslim civilians.

A “campaign of killings and persecution” by government soldiers against civilians in the north-central and northwest regions between 2006 and 2009 also could constitute crimes against humanity, it says.

Advertisements

In Central African Republic, refugees await vote results

February 19, 2016

KAGA-BANDORO, Central African Republic (AP) — It’s been more two years since Therese Waima fled for her life with her five children after Muslim rebels shot her husband to death. While adjusted to a new normal inside a sprawling camp home to thousands of others, she still dreams of going home.

Yet even as she cast a ballot this past week in Central African Republic’s historic presidential runoff vote, she knows it is still too dangerous to return to her village, where she wants to resume selling peanuts and manioc to support her family.

“I hope to leave one day, but we can’t right now so long as there is still insecurity,” she says as she washes laundry in a plastic bucket outside the thatched hut where her family stays with thousands of other Christians in the town of Kaga-Bandoro.

Sunday’s election, even with its problems, marked a rare success in a country where more leaders have come to power through coups than through elections since independence from France in 1960. Though there was no major violence, many here in this town 330 kilometers (200 miles) north of the capital, Bangui, know the guns haven’t disappeared altogether.

“We ask the new president to make disarmament his first priority,” said Fidel Magonda, 48, as he collected cornmeal and split peas at a food distribution organized by the U.N. World Food Program and its local partners this week.

The church pastor has spent the past two years at a displacement camp with his wife and seven children in Kaga-Bandoro after Seleka fighters burned their home to the ground. And his concerns underscore the challenges that will face whoever ultimately wins the presidency: simmering tensions in the north, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced not only inside the country but living in camps in neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Congo.

The north of Central African Republic has long been a fief of Muslim rebel groups, each with its own four-letter French acronym. In 2013, several of them joined together as Seleka — the word for alliance in the local Sango language. They ultimately overthrew the president of a decade but their leader was forced to step aside after rebels committed scores of atrocities against Christian civilians during their brutal reign in power.

By late 2013, a largely Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka had arisen in opposition to Seleka forces, carrying out brutal attacks on Muslim civilians. The conflict has displaced nearly 1 million people — about half internally including those who have fled to Kaga-Bandoro from surrounding villages in the countryside.

“There needs to be a base level of security,” said Lewis Mudge, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “People need to have the security and the confidence to start to regain their lives. And most people that I am speaking to know that is not going to come simply with an election. The elections are not going to be the silver bullet that everyone wants them to be.”

Hundreds of Seleka fighters regrouped here in Kaga-Bandoro along with Muslim civilians after fleeing the capital two years ago. Many ex-Seleka have reformed into a new group known by its French acronym — FRPC, or Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic — under the leadership of a former top Seleka official named Noureddine Adam.

Adam is believed to be in neighboring Chad despite being on a U.N. sanctions list that includes a travel ban and a freeze on his assets. These days his followers here are more likely to wear jeans and sandals than military gear.

His followers say they want to live in peace with Christians and the refugees should feel safe going home. But he says his men are tired of the country’s north being marginalized by the government in Bangui, a complaint that has fueled rebellions long before the Seleka overthrow of the government.

Moussa Aboua Maoloud Baret, a local leader of the FRPC, says he sees little difference between the two candidates — both Christians, both former prime ministers who served under governments that didn’t address the problems of the north.

“We are awaiting the results of this election that was imposed by the international community,” he says. “We have no problems with the Christians — there are plenty of churches here and none have been destroyed. But we don’t want to be marginalized. That is the problem.”

Associated Press journalist Andrew Drake contributed to this report.

Central African Republic voters seek leader to end chaos

February 14, 2016

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic went ahead with a presidential runoff vote Sunday that many hope will solidify the country’s tentative peace after more than two years of sectarian fighting left thousands dead and nearly 1 million people displaced including most of the capital’s Muslim population.

Armored U.N. personnel carriers roamed the streets of Bangui as residents headed to the polls not long after sunrise. Some 2,000 U.N. peacekeepers are deployed in the capital while 8,000 others were working to secure the vote in the largely anarchic provinces.

Residents said they planned to set aside painful memories of the chaos that intensified in late 2013 when Christian militia fighters known as the anti-Balaka attacked Bangui, unleashing cycles of retaliatory violence with mostly Muslim Seleka fighters. At the height of the violence people were killed and dismembered by mobs in the capital’s streets. More than 460,000 people fled for their lives to neighboring countries, many aboard trucks that came under attack even as refugees tried to leave.

The conflict at the time was a political dispute over who would lead Central African Republic, but it divided communities among religious fault lines: Hundreds of mosques and churches were destroyed, interreligious marriages unraveled. A new spasm of violence late last year effectively barricaded most of Bangui’s remaining Muslims inside the PK5 neighborhood for several months.

Now voters are being given a choice of two former prime ministers — both promising to unite the country and bring the peace people here desperately want. Front-runner Anicet Georges Dologuele received about 24 percent in the first round and also was endorsed by the third-place finisher. However, Faustin Archange Touadera has strong grassroots support after placing second in the December ballot.

Noel Poutou, 74, is a lifelong resident of the PK5 neighborhood, never venturing outside it over the last two years. Even when bloody stones on the ground marked where fellow Muslims had been beaten to death by mobs, he stayed.

“Everything has a beginning and an end,” he said with his wooden cane at his side, dressed in a deep green traditional Muslim tunic and white prayer hat. “For me, this is the end of the crisis. Everyone here has lost loved ones and friends. I ask God to bring peace so that people can forget and become a family here again.”

Voters lining up at 6 a.m. in the Fatima district of the capital said they too hoped the vote would bring a definitive end to the violence. Tensions, though, were high as some were momentarily blocked from voting because they did not have photo identification along with their voting cards.

Such ID was not required in the first round of balloting, and many frustrated voters said they had lost their papers along with their homes during the latest wave of violence late last year as Seleka fighters attacked predominantly Christian neighborhoods.

“I’ve been standing here in line since 5 a.m.,” said Anne-Marie Betaboye as she clutched her Catholic rosary beads in her right hand. “My house was burned to the ground; I’m living on the grounds of the church.”

Authorities said they were talking to neighborhood officials about finding a solution. Other voters said their names did not appear on the list at the polling station where they voted during the first round in December.

A period of relative peace has taken hold in the months since Pope Francis pushed aside suggestions it was too dangerous to visit Central African Republic. The pope set an example for many, residents said, by coming to PK5 in November to meet with Muslim community leaders even as peacekeepers manned sniper points from the minarets in case the pope’s entourage came under attack.

Sunday’s vote, which was delayed several times, is designed to bring an end to the transitional government set up two years ago. Its formation was the culmination of a chaotic period when the last elected president was overthrown by rebels, then the rebel leader forced to step aside as his fighters carried out atrocities against civilians.

And yet even as conditions improve, tens of thousands are casting their ballots from refugee camps in neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Two of the most prominent anti-Balaka leaders are on the ballot, running for legislative seats.

Junior Yangangoussou, 30, a finance administer in Bangui, acknowledges it’s a delicate situation. While voting day is expected to go smoothly, things could become tense once the ballots are counted, he says.

“We are somewhat afraid of the results, and we are praying to God for peace,” he said. “The country has not been disarmed. Weapons are everywhere in every district of Central African Republic.”

Red Cross: Wounded trapped in C. African Republic capital

October 01, 2015

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Aid officials pleaded for access to the neighborhoods of Central African Republic’s treacherous capital on Wednesday, saying that sectarian clashes between rivaling Christian and Muslim militias make it too dangerous to help the wounded and to recover bodies.

Underscoring the chaotic security situation, the U.N. reported that two of its peacekeepers had been severely wounded. The violence marked the second attack of its kind Wednesday as the U.N. forces worked to take down roadblocks that had been put up by militants, said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General.

At least 42 deaths have been confirmed in Bangui since sectarian clashes erupted on Saturday, including a teenage boy who was decapitated. However, the head of the national Red Cross told The Associated Press that death toll is far from complete as its workers have not been able to get into some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

“I’m calling on people to let the Red Cross circulate and do their humanitarian work because the organization is impartial, neutral and non-political,” Antoine Mbao-Bogo said. “As of yesterday there were still many barriers and tensions were high, but people should know we are here for them.”

The Red Cross’ difficulties highlight how quickly and severely the situation has deteriorated in Central African Republic, which has undergone waves of deadly sectarian fighting since Muslim rebels in early 2013 overthrew the president of a decade. In that violence by Muslim and Christian fighters, untold thousands of civilians were killed, and tens of thousands of Muslims fled the country for their lives. Even convoys of Muslims trying to reach neighboring Chad were frequently fired upon by militants, killing would-be refugees.

A measure of stability was achieved in mid-2014 with the arrival of a U.N. peacekeeping force and the forced migration of most of Bangui’s Muslim civilian population. The establishment of a transitional government, headed by President Catherine Samba-Panza, who was charged with leading the country to elections on Oct. 18.

But the slaying last week of a Muslim man whose body was left near a mosque in Bangui re-ignited violence between Muslim and Christian militias in the capital. Samba-Panza rushed home from the U.N. General Assembly in New York because of the violence and the latest fighting is expected to derail plans for the upcoming elections. The violence also has raised doubts about Pope Francis will maintain his scheduled visit to Bangui in late November.

Foreign Minister Samuel Rangba told the General Assembly that Bangui has seen a “horrendous spike” in displaced people, with more than 30,000 now. Many of the people are returning to a squalid refugee camp at the airport that authorities have been trying to dismantle.

Rangba called on the U.N. Security Council to consider lifting restrictions on the training and equipping of his country’s military, and he asked for a stronger mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

The concerns about safe access to Bangui’s neighborhoods have been echoed by Doctors Without Borders, which said wounded people had been arriving in many cases on foot. The group’s ambulances also have been unable to circulate as the capital had become too dangerous.

“Given the situation around town, the number of wounded reaching our medical teams seems strangely low,” said Emmanuel Lampaert, the group’s head of mission in CAR. “Unfortunately, we think right now many people have no way to reach the emergency medical care they need. They cannot safely move to health facilities, and we cannot move out to reach them.”

Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.

UN: More child abuse cases possible in C. African Republic

May 01, 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations on Friday said “it is possible, it’s horribly possible” that more allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and other soldiers in Central African Republic could come to light as investigations continue.

A U.N. human rights spokesman reminded reporters in Geneva that conditions where the alleged abuse occurred last year were chaotic, with thousands of displaced people taking refuge at the capital’s airport and under protection of French and other troops.

Rupert Colville said U.N. officials now have to see what French authorities will come up with as their investigation continues. He called the allegations “abhorrent” and “utterly odious.” “Longer term, only the French can do this investigation … fully,” he said.

Residents of the camp for displaced persons have told The Associated Press that French soldiers tasked with protecting civilians during months of vicious sectarian violence in the country had sexually abused boys as young as 9 years old.

France’s investigations follow an initial U.N. investigation into the allegations a year ago. All of the probes came to light Wednesday when a report in the Guardian newspaper pushed officials to publicly acknowledge the allegations.

The accusations were made before a U.N. peacekeeping force arrived in the country in September. The U.N. has said one of its human rights workers leaked information about the U.N. investigation to French authorities last year. Swede Anders Kompass has been suspended and is under internal investigation. The U.N. says the leak was a breach of protocol, with the leak including names of victims and witnesses.

Paula Donovan, whose group AIDS-Free World has been looking into abuse by peacekeeping personnel, has said children also accused soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea. The U.N. on Friday said it didn’t know whether the accusations against soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea were being pursued but that the French investigation might cover them.

The deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters in New York that troops from those countries did not join the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Chad withdrew before the U.N. mission came, and the inclusion of Equatorial Guinea troops was not approved by U.N. peacekeeping officials, Haq said.

The U.N. Security Council has called on the African Union and troop-contributing countries to investigate reported human rights abuses by forces present in Central African Republic before the U.N. mission arrived, he said.

U.N. officials in Geneva also said that after hearing of the allegations, the U.N. worked with partners to ensure that the children received medical and “psychosocial” care, and that social workers followed up regularly with the children for weeks.

The children are safe now, Christophe Boulierac of UNICEF told reporters. France’s president has promised tough punishment for any soldier found guilty. French military officials have refused to say whether the soldiers have been identified or whether any were still serving in Central African Republic.

“This is incredibly important, not just as a matter of accountability, but also as deterrence,” the U.N. human rights office said Friday. “There have been far too many incidents of peacekeeping troops engaged in such acts, whether within U.N. peacekeeping forces, or – as in this case – forces that are operating independently.”

Central African Republic: nearly all mosques destroyed

March 20, 2015

By: Agencies

Source: Cii Broadcasting

Almost all of the 436 mosques in the Central African Republic have been destroyed by months of vicious fighting between Christians and Muslims, the US ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday, calling the devastation “kind of crazy, chilling.”

Samantha Power spoke to reporters after a Security Council visit last week to the country. She expressed concern about an upcoming possible security vacuum as European Union and French forces pull out and a UN peacekeeping force is still not at full strength.

At least 5,000 people have been killed since Central African Republic exploded into unprecedented sectarian violence in December 2013. Nearly 1 million of the Texas-sized country’s 4.5 million residents have been displaced. Many of those who have fled are Muslim.

Power said 417 of the country’s mosques have been destroyed. She visited the one remaining Muslim neighborhood in the capital, Bangui, and described the residents as “a terrified population.”

Some Muslim women, afraid of leaving the community while wearing their veils, are choosing to give birth in their homes instead of hospitals, the ambassador said.

UN peacekeepers, French forces and a European Union military operation have tried to calm the violence. But Power said the last of the EU force of about 750 troops left the Central African Republic over the weekend, shortly after the Security Council visit.

“That’s a big dropoff in capability,” she said. Meanwhile, the French forces have announced a “substantial drawdown” by the end of this year. France had sent 2,000 troops to its former colony.

The UN peacekeeping force remains at about 80 percent of its planned strength of about 10,000, Power said. The UN secretary-general last month asked for more than 1,000 additional peacekeepers, and Power said the council is “very favorably disposed” to the request.

She said the combined forces have “averted a worst-case scenario,” but the country’s roving armed groups remain armed. She called that a deep cause for concern and said disarmament is a “huge priority.”

Source: Muslim Village.

Link: http://muslimvillage.com/2015/03/20/74094/central-african-republic-nearly-mosques-destroyed/.

Central African Republic: militia lays down arms

November 30, 2014

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — A Christian militia in Central African Republic is abandoning its armed fight and transforming itself into a political party, according to a top official in the group.

Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the president last year. Widespread human rights abuses committed by Seleka led to the formation of the anti-Balaka Christian militia, unleashing sectarian fighting that has forced hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians to flee to neighboring countries.

As a U.N. peacekeeping force tries to restore stability, the former Muslim rebels have largely been confined to their bases, but Christian fighters have continued to carry out attacks. Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, national coordinator of the anti-Balaka, announced Saturday that the militia would, from now on, only fight through political means. He said any member who carries out an attack will be brought to justice.

“I can assure you that the fighters have decided to turn this dark page of history that we have all lived through in this country,” he said a conference of militia members. “No anti-Balaka should use his weapons.”

The new party, the Central African Party for Unity and Development, will continue to press the militia’s demands through political means, he said. Those include the release of militia members in prison and the reinstatement of the army salaries of militiamen who used to be in the military.

Tag Cloud