Tag Archives: Central African Republic

New Violence Hits the CAR

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After months of relative calm, over the past week violence has increased in the Central African Republic (CAR), with one United Nations peacekeeper killed on Thursday.

UN Peacekeeper Killed

According to UN officials, a UN peacekeeper from Pakistan was killed while another soldier was severely wounded after an ambush on a joint Pakistani-Bangladeshi convoy. Seven other soldiers sustained minor injuries. This is the first casualty of the mission, which deployed to the CAR last month, effectively taking over from African-led troops deployed to the country after a March 2013 coup plunged the CAR into chaos. The head of the UN mission in the CAR, Babacar Gaye, has strongly condemned the ambush, stating “this crime against the UN peacekeepers, who are here to help the people of the Central African Republic, is unacceptable and the perpetrators will be held accountable and brought to justice.”

The death of a UN peacekeeper in the CAR comes amidst heightened concern over the UN mission in northern Mali, where a wave of attacks has killed 31 peacekeepers since July 2013. Over the past week, two separate incidents targeting the UN mission killed ten peacekeepers, sparking fears that militant groups previously ousted from the region by French and African forces are regaining strength.

Violence Increased in Bangui

The capital city Bangui was also affected by an upsurge in violence this week. According to UN sources in the capital, at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded after clashes erupted between the city’s Muslim and Christian populations.  The fresh violence was apparently ignited by a grenade attack blamed on a Muslim assailant on a motorbike, followed by the murder of a taxi driver allegedly by Muslim gunmen who later set fire to several houses.

On Wednesday, witnesses reported that an angry crowd killed a Muslim man over night, decapitating and burning his corpse. Sources have reported that the motorcyclist was chased by Christian anti-balaka militiamen in the northern suburb of Gobongo after they suspected that he had thrown a grenade at a market, injuring several civilians. According to a MINUSCA official, further violence erupted in Bangui’s KM5 district on Wednesday when a “young taxi driver was killed by Muslims who then torched several homes.” A group of Muslim men then tried to advance on the capital’s northern districts but were arrested by troops. An official in the gendarmerie has reported that the renewed tensions in Bangui have killed at least five people, including the motorcyclist, the taxi driver and three others. The tensions also come as the Chistian-dominated militia requested that the country’s transitional president step down.

Heavy gunfire and explosions continued throughout the night and again on Thursday, resulting in many shops closing and residents opting to stay indoors. Officials from the Red Cross revealed Thursday that its workers have been unable to respond to calls for help after being threatened by gunmen. In a statement released Thursday, Jean-Francois Sangsue, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s operations in Bangui, disclosed “the threats must stop. We are asking the population to facilitate the work of Red Cross volunteers. If the threats continue we will be obliged to cease all relief activities, leaving many victims to fend for themselves.” The Red Cross has urged all those involved in the renewed violence to let aid workers do their job.

Since September 29, at least seven people have been killed in what is the latest inter-communal violence that has affected the capital city. Despite UN peacekeepers deployed throughout the city in a bid to restore calm, tensions have remained high throughout this week, with further incidents likely to occur.  The latest clashes are the fiercest to occur since the UN force took over peacekeeping duties last month.

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CAR Appoints New Prime Minister as Clashes Continue

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On Sunday, just days after the Central African Republic’s interim government resigned, the country’s president, Catherine Samba Panza, named her new prime minister. The mainly Muslim rebel Seleka group however has rejected the appointment of the CAR’s first Muslim prime minister, stating that it wants no part of the new government.

Mahamat Kamoun was appointed prime minister Sunday evening, effectively replacing Andre Nzapayeke, who stepped down last week. Mr. Kamoun, an expert in finance, was the director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize. He later became a special advisor to the current interim president. While he has now been tasked with leading a transitional government that is seeking to implement a precarious ceasefire signed late last month, officials within the Seleka rebel group have rejected the decision, stating Monday that while Mr Kamoun had served as head of the tax-collecting agency, he was not a Seleka member. Abou Mal Mal Hissene, a Seleka spokesman, disclosed Monday that the group’s leaders “…think the transitional president didn’t take account of the views of the Seleka, which still controls the majority part of the country,” adding “the Seleka will not participate in the government.” The spokesman also reported that the fragmented collation of former rebels had learned of the appointment of a new prime minister “by way of foreign media.” Despite refusing to join the new government, the spokesman did note that the Seleka leaders remain committed to the peace accord, which was signed in Brazzaville last month.

On Tuesday, President Samba Panza confirmed that the government had resigned as part of a peace deal that was reached last month with the Christian and Muslim rebel factions. The resignation of the interim government, which includes Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke along with twenty other ministers, will make way for a new one that is more inclusive.

Mr. Kamoun, who is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the CAR since the country gained its independence from France in 1960, will now face the difficult task of revitalising a delicate political transition that is aimed at ending deadly sectarian violence and disarming militias. Despite the appointment and the promise of a more inclusive government, many hurdles remain on the CAR’s path to peace. The inclusion of armed groups within the future government remains to be a sensitive topic in on-going discussions. There are however signs that Mr Kamoun’s appointment may aid in reducing tensions.

While Seleka rebels continue to clash with anti-balaka forces, the Seleka coalition itself is weak and fragmented as its members are divided between those who support dialogue and those who refuse to make any concessions and instead call for a partition of the country. This appointment may ease the tensions between the government and former Seleka coalition members, and will likely undercut support for those pushing for a partition. Furthermore, Mr Kamoun’s appointment is likely to reassure the Muslim minority community, many of whom have been treated with suspicion by the country’s Christian population following the Seleka takeover in March 2013. While the interim president’s promises of a more inclusive government appear to be coming true, this has yet had an impact on the current situation throughout the country as tensions on the ground have not eased and the ceasefire signed in Brazzaville remains extremely fragile.

After weeks of relative calm in the capital Bangui, clashes erupted on Friday and Saturday between two rival factions of the anti-balaka militia. International peacekeepers deployed throughout the CAR were forced to intervene. The latest confrontations, which occurred in the Boy-Rabe neighbourhood in northern Bangui, came just two days after dozens of Seleka fighters attacked French peacekeepers who were patrolling the northern town of Batangafo. Two French troops were injured in the clashes.





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Talks Suspended in Brazzaville as Seleka Rebels Fail to Show Up

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Just one day after peace talks were launched between the Central African Republic’s sectarian rivals, on Tuesday the talks were suspended after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up for the second day of the forum. The suspension came one day before the deadline to reach a deal that the international community was hoping would bring an end to the on going violence.

Sources indicated Tuesday that delegates from the mainly Muslim Seleka had been provided a copy of the draft accord for the talks, which had been due to end on Wednesday, however they were apparently still studying the text. According to a member of the Congolese organizing committee, the two main negotiation sessions of the talks, one focusing on securing and bringing an end to hostilities while the other focusing on disarming fighters in the CAR, were suspended as a result. A third workshop on the political transition went ahead at the request of the regional grouping ECCAS.

The three-day forum for reconciliation and political dialogue, chaired by Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso and backed by a contact group composed of some thirty countries, was aimed at resolving the crisis that has already left thousands of civilians dead and has driven more than a million people from their homes, with many fleeing into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad. The continuing tit-for-tat attacks have also strained delivery of humanitarian relief, with aid agencies indicating that half the country is in need of humanitarian assistance. Around 170 Central African officials were taking part in the talks, including members of transitional President Catherine Samba Panza’s government, along with lawmakers, envoys from armed groups, political parties and civil society. While the Seleka rebel group’s failure to attend the talks signifies another set back for the CAR’s return to stability, recent clashes, that broke out as the talks opened Monday, have further demonstrated that the current on the ground situation is also far from reconciliation.

On Monday, new violence broke out in Bangui with the killing of a former Seleka rebel, which has sparked reprisal attacks from the mainly Christian anti-balaka group. The African Union-led peacekeeping force in the CAR, MISCA, has blamed the anti-balaka groups for the killing, stating the victim was on his way “to get breakfast” near the main hospital when he was killed. His death sparked allies of the victim to storm out of their nearby base camp, where they began looting, robbing stores and firing off shots and taking a group of students captive. According to a MISCA source, a “…number of youth from the high school next to the hospital were also taken prisoner by the ex-Seleka.” Although MISCA and European-led forces have taken up positions to secure the hospital area, where the fighting occurred, Monday’s violence has underscored the challenge facing peace negotiators in Brazzaville.

The CAR plunged into chaos when the Seleka rebel group seized power in a March 2013 coup. Since then, there have been months of atrocities that have been carried out by rebels gone rogue, which have in turn sparked reprisal attack carried out by the mostly Christian anti-balaka vigilante group.

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Attacks Continues in Kenya; Reconciliation Talks Begin in Brazzaville

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Armed men on a motorbike killed at least four people late Sunday in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa in an attack that left another eight people wounded.

According to Mombasa’s chief of police Robert Kitur, the attack occurred at 8:30 PM (1730 GMT) when gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed four people and injured a number others in the area of Soweto, adding that the identity of the killers remains unknown.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the shooting however on the ground sources have reported that the gunmen also handed out leaflets stating that the attack was in retribution for last month’s violence in Mpeketoni, a town located 300 km (185 miles) north of Mombasa. In June, more than sixty people were killed in two days of violence. Despite al-Shabaab claiming responsibility for that attack, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed “local political” networks.

In recent months, Mombasa has been the scene of worsening unrest, with a string of shootings and bombings blamed on Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants or local sympathizers. The al-Qaeda-linked group has indicated that attacks carried out on Kenyan soil by al-Shabaab militants are in retaliation for Kenya’s on going military intervention in Somalia.

The attack in Mombasa comes just two days after another incident occurred on Kenya’s coast. On Friday night, seven people were killed when militants targeted a bus near the Kenyan holiday island of Lamu. Two police officers were amongst those killed. Responsibility for that attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, with the militant’s spokesman stating that the group was “ready to act or attack anywhere necessary within Kenya.”

Reconciliation Talks Begin in Brazzaville

Meanwhile the key players in the Central African Republic conflict launched new talks on Monday in neighbouring Congo. The talks are aimed at ending more than a year of sectarian bloodshed.

Congo’s President Deni Sassou Nguesso chairs the three-day forum, which will focus on reconciliation and political dialogue. Backed by a contact group, that will bring together some thirty countries and organizations, the latest talks aim to produce an accord by Wednesday that will effectively end the violence, disarm the fighters and set up a new framework for political transition. According to sources, this accord will eventually pave the way for a much-needed national reconciliation council that will take place in October in the CAR’s capital city Bangui.

Although some 170 officials from the CAR are expected to participate in these talks, including members of transitional President Catherine Samba Panza’s government, lawmakers, envoys from armed groups, political parties and civil societie, several political and religious leaders in the CAR have boycotted the talks, calling them to be held at home as the issue concerns the CAR and not the entire region. The lack of full representative envoys, coupled with the short time allocated for the talks, could hamper their chance of success. Previous peace summits held in Chad and Gabon have produced minimal lasting results.

The CAR has been in crisis since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013. Months of atrocities carried out by rebels have sparked reprisal attacks by Christian vigilantes, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced. Despite French peacekeepers intervening in the former colony in December last year, along with a multinational force raised by the African Union, clashes between the rebels and vigilante groups have continued, with fears that the violence may result in a Rwanda-style genocide.

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The United Nations Launches Human Rights Probe in CAR Atrocities

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The United Nations has launched a human rights investigation into the on-going violence that is taking place in the Central African Republic (CAR).  The launch of the investigation comes after the UN Security Council ordered an inquiry in December to identify suspects who could be prosecuted for the violence.  On Monday, inquiry head Bernard Acho Muna indicated that he hoped the presence of investigators in the CAR would help prevent genocide.  The Cameroonian judge added that “we have to put an end to the impunity,” noting that the “hate propaganda” in the CAR was similar to that in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide that killed about 800,000 people.  Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, before heading for the CAR, Mr Muna stated “we don’t wait until genocide is committed and then we call for prosecution….I think it is in our mandate to see how one can stop any advances toward genocide.”  The inquiry will “…present to the Security Council a complete file so that the appropriate action can be taken.”  A team of UN investigators will arrive in Bangui on Tuesday to begin interviewing Christian and Muslim victims of attacks, as well as senior political and military officials and activist groups.   The commission, which includes former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda and Fatimata M’Baye, a lawyer from Mauritania, will spend two weeks in the CAR and will also look into Chad’s role in the violence.  They will then draw up a confidential list of suspects for eventual prosecution, which will be submitted to world powers later this year.  They will also be in touch with a preliminary inquiry, which will be carried out by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since the beginning of the conflict last year, thousands of people have been killed while the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) says that about 1.3 million people, a quarter of the population, are in need of aid.  Tens of thousand of Muslims have also fled the country as Christian militias have stepped up their attacks since the forced resignation of the CAR’s first Muslim ruler, Michel Djotodia, in January 2014.  Many Muslims have crossed the borders into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, while thousands more are living in camps inside the CAR.  Although interim President Catherine Samba Panza has appealed for an end to the bloodshed, this appeal has gone with little success.

On Friday, UN aid chief Valerie Amos announced that fewer than 1,000, of the more than 100,000 Muslims who once lived in the capital city, remain in Bangui.

Somali Forces Launch Operations to Retake al-Shabaab Controlled Regions

Officials indicated Monday that African peacekeepers, operating alongside government forces, have recaptured several strategic towns in the south-western region of Somalia.  The recapture comes just days after the African Union’s AMISOM force announced that it had launched a wide scale offensive against al-Shabaab militants in areas located near the Ethiopian border.  The operation to remove the militant group from its last remaining strongholds in central and southern Somalia also comes in the wake of a sure of attacks in the country’s capital, Mogadishu, where al-Shabaab continues its bid to oust the internationally-backed government.

Speaking to reports, regional government official Abdulahi Yarisow confirmed the operations, stating “AMISOM and the Somali troops kicked al-Shabaab out of several key towns including Wajid and regional capital Hudur,” adding that “our military advancement will continue until we eliminate the enemy from the rest of the country.”  A statement released by AMISOM indicated that troops had secured the towns of Ted, Rabdhure and Buudhubow, effectively driving out al-Shabaab militants from the area.  The statement added that “the SNA (Somali National Army) and AMISOM joint operations signal the beginning of the renewed efforts by the Somali government forces working more closely with AMISOM forces to dislodge al-Shabaab from many of its strongholds across the country.”

Although Hudur had been captured from al-Shabaab by Ethiopian troops in March 2012, their withdrawal from the region resulted in the town falling back into the control of al-Shabaab.

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