Kenya: New armed group in CAR causes mayhem - Rights group says

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) – A human rights watchdog has disclosed that a recently formed armed group called “Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation,” or 3R, has killed civilians, raped, and caused large-scale displacement over the past year in northwest Central African Republic (CAR).

Human Rights Watch said United Nations peacekeepers in the area had been unable to fully protect civilians.

“The Central African Republic is on the international agenda, but its neglected northwest territory now presents an emerging crisis,” Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. “The 3R armed group, which originally portrayed itself as a protector of the Peuhl, has used its increased strength to expand abusive attacks,” he added.

A statement by the human rights group on Tuesday said between 21-27 November 2016, Human Rights Watch documented the killing of at least 50 civilians in the Bocaranga and Koui sub-prefectures in Ouham Pendé province.

It said it interviewed 42 people, including 8 victims of 3R abuse, 9 relatives of victims, and 16 witnesses. They described how 3R members shot and killed civilians, raped women and girls, and pillaged and burned villages.

The force’s actions have displaced at least 17,000 people: 14,000 around the town of Bocaranga and 3,000 on the border with Cameroon.

Human Rights Watch said the number of 3R’s victims was probably higher but it was unable to confirm all reported killings and rapes due to limited access and security concerns. However, it saw one village, Bogon III, that 3R had destroyed, and heard credible accounts of others, including seeing photographs of the destruction.  

It said under the command of self-proclaimed General Sidiki Abass, 3R emerged in late 2015 to protect the minority Peuhl population in the region from attacks by anti-balaka militia, one of the two major combatant groups in the country in recent years.

"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," Human Rights Watch said.

It added that 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.

The rights watchdog stresses that 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."

It noted that 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 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.

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.

A new UN human rights report released on 14 December says arbitrary killings, sexual violence and other human rights violations and abuses have continued to plague the Central African Republic.

A statement made available to UN reporters in New York said during the period covered, which includes the final six months of the CAR's Transitional Government, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) recorded 1,301 cases of human rights violations and abuses in the country.
-0- PANA MA 20Dec2016

20 december 2016 09:33:26




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