Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.
Published by Global Centre for R2P on January 27, 2021.
A soldier takes position at daybreak in Bangui (Andreea Campeanu/Reuters)
On Thursday, 21 January, the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) declared a state of emergency after an alliance of armed groups seized control of several national highways and blockaded the capital, Bangui. The alliance of anti-balaka militias and ex-Séléka rebels, known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), poses a grave threat to civilians, humanitarian workers and UN personnel. Mankeur Ndiaye, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA), has made an urgent appeal to the UN Security Council (UNSC) for more troops, noting that the “new security situation” is testing MINUSCA’s ability to protect civilians and deliver essential food and medical supplies.
Attacks by the CPC have been ongoing since CAR’s 27 December general elections, which saw incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra reelected. The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in CAR has reported on the alleged recruitment and use of children by the CPC and claims that many Central Africans have been victims of violence, torture or death threats simply for exercising their right to vote. Seven MINUSCA peacekeepers have also been killed in recent weeks while trying to prevent the CPC from attacking the capital and overturning the election result.
The UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Karen Smith, have expressed their concern over the deteriorating situation in CAR. The Special Advisers said that, “we strongly remind those behind these attacks that their acts constitute atrocity crimes, and those with highest responsibility, including political actors will be held accountable.”
The escalating violence has exacerbated what is already one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 84,000 Central Africans have fled to neighboring countries since December, while 100,000 people remain internally displaced. Most of the country outside Bangui is controlled by the CPC and other armed groups.
Armed groups that are part of the CPC have a history of perpetrating atrocities, including killing civilians, rape, sexual slavery and deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure. On 24 January CAR authorities surrendered the first Séléka suspect, Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, to face charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Said is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed as a Séléka commander in Bangui in 2013. While his transfer to the ICC is an important step towards justice, many perpetrators of past atrocities continue to operate in command positions inside the CPC.
Christine Caldera, Research Analyst at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said that, “history shows us that if these predatory armed groups are allowed to enter Bangui, atrocities will almost certainly be committed. The UNSC should take urgent action to reinforce MINUSCA and ensure that it has the military capacity to protect civilians and defend Bangui from further attack.”
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