World, Africa

Militants target civilians in Central African Rep: HRW

Rights group says recent attacks in Central African Republic left at least 45 people dead and at least 11,000 displaced

Felix Nkambeh Tih   | 02.05.2017
Militants target civilians in Central African Rep: HRW FILE PHOTO

By Felix Nkambeh Tih

ANKARA

Militant groups in Central African Republic are targeting civilians for revenge killings especially in the central Ouaka province, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday.

“Armed groups are targeting civilians for revenge killings in the central part of the country,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“As factions vie for power in the Central African Republic, civilians on all sides are exposed to their deadly attacks,” Mudge added.

Tensions between the Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic (FPRC), another rebel group drawn from predominantly Muslim Seleka fighters, began escalating late last year.

The UN peacekeeping force in the country, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), has deployed approximately 1,000 of its 12,870 members to Ouaka province over the past three months, but the attacks persist, the statement said.

''The attacks have left at least 45 people dead and at least 11,000 displaced,'' the statement added.


Cycles of reprisals

Human Right Watch said, on March 20, that anti-balaka and FPRC fighters in the towns of Wadja Wadja and Agoudou-Manga, suspecting an upcoming UPC attack, ordered town residents to move to Yassine for their safety.

“The Peuhl [UPC fighters] started to shoot and throw grenades at us,” said “Marie,” an Agoudou-Manga resident who was forced to move to Yassine. “They shot at everyone. The anti-balaka just abandoned the civilians. I saw dead children as I ran away.”

“These killings are caused by cycles of reprisals. A group will kill one person, so the other group will kill three, then the first group will kill twenty,” a Bambari local official told HRW.

Violence erupted in CAR between pro-Christian and pro-Muslim fighters in 2013.

Since 2013, thousands of people have been killed in sectarian conflict in the country, and thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in neighboring countries, including Cameroon and Chad.

Almost half the population of the Central African state depends on humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

This February, authorities appointed Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa from the Democratic Republic of Congo as general prosecutor of the Special Criminal Court.

The court, made up of international judges and prosecutors, was established in June 2015 to investigate serious human rights violations in the country.

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