UN chief criticizes Central African Republic forces’ actions

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations. /VCG Photo
FILE PHOTO: Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations. /VCG Photo

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized the Central African Republic’s security and allied forces in a new report for an “unprecedented increase in hostile threats and incidents” targeting U.N. peacekeepers and alleged human rights abuses.

His 37-page report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press said people in the country continue to face an “unacceptably high level of violence.”

He called on President Faustin Archange Touadera to place peace and reconciliation at the heart of his second term “and seize the opportunity to address the root causes of the conflict.”

The mineral-rich Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-religious and inter-communal fighting since 2013.

A peace deal between the government and 14 rebel groups was signed in February 2019, but violence blamed on the country’s former president, Francois Bozize, and his allies threaten to nullify the agreement. It erupted after the constitutional court rejected Bozize’s candidacy to run for president in December.

Touadera won re-election in late December to a second term with 53% of the vote, but he continues to face opposition from forces linked to Bozize.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the country and warned that attacks on U.N. peacekeepers there may constitute war crimes.

At that contentious council meeting, U.S. political coordinator Rodney Hunter expressed outrage at reports that Russian military instructors led military offensives in the country “characterized by confrontations with U.N. peacekeepers, threats against U.N. personnel, violations of international humanitarian law, extensive sexual violence, and widespread looting, including of humanitarian organizations.”

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, accused the U.S. of making “baseless allegations” and said the U.S. action, coupled with a campaign in some media, “constitutes a coordinated action aimed at besmirching our effective … assistance to stabilization in the CAR.”

Russia and Rwanda have troops in CAR, at the invitation of the government, that have battled rebels. The secretary-general’s report makes repeated references to “national security forces and bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” including in referring to attacks on peacekeepers, without singling out any “bilateral” country,.

Guterres said the security situation in CAR remains “fragile, particularly in the west, northwest and center of the country, due to continued clashes between armed groups … and national defense forces assisted by bilaterally deployed and other security personnel, resulting in loss of lives and displacement.”

The report gave details on clashes leading to a May 30 border incident that has heightened tensions between the Central African Republic and Chad.