Le Monde: Central African Republic says abuses have been perpetrated by rebels, but also by its own army and allied Russian instructors

When the UN report was published, the Central African government considered these accusations to be “mere denunciations”.

Le Monde – October 01, 2021

Original article

Six months after the release of an UN report accusing Russian mercenaries of abuses in CAR, the government acknowledged part of the facts on Friday through the voice of its Minister of Justice, Arnaud Djoubaye Abazène. The latter claimed that the crimes and acts of torture had been “mostly” committed by rebels – with Central African soldiers and their “Russian instructors” only coming in second place.

“Out of 103 occurrences of human rights and humanitarian law violations” recorded by UN experts, “23 are not proven,” the justice minister said. “Most of it is attributable to CPC rebels,”[Coalition of Patriots for Change] according to the minister, who assured that some “will be tried for engaging in war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

Those attributable to the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and the internal security forces “are already being prosecuted” so in order to bring their perpetrators “before the courts”.

“Some are attributable to Russian instructors who operate in support of the FACA,” but also to “support forces” such as the MINUSCA (the UN peacekeeping mission) and other contingents of African soldiers. “The states supplying these troops, once seized, must organize hearings by their military courts,” continued the minister, referring to the recent repatriation of Gabonese soldiers by the UN following suspicions of sexual abuse.

Two UN reports

When the UN report was published, the Central African government considered these accusations to be “mere denunciations”. Last March, the human rights division of MINUSCA, the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic, noted that 85% of these abuses were attributable to armed groups, but “state agents and their allies” have also reportedly killed, tortured and ill-treated civilians arbitrarily, and carried out arbitrary arrests.

In August, a new UN report recorded “526 cases of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law across the country” between July 2020 and June 2021 which “resulted in at least 1,221 victims”,including 144 civilians. Among these violations, the UN has documented “summary and extrajudicial executions, acts of torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, (…)conflict-related sexual violence and grave violations of children’s rights.” For the UN, the CPC was responsible for more than half of the incidents recorded. The organization had also pointed to the responsibility of the Central African armed forces, as well as their allies, “the Russian military instructors”, “responsible for 46% of confirmed incidents”.

Close to Putin

Since December 2020, Central African forces have been conducting a vast counter-offensive against the CPC rebels, an alliance of rebel groups that is trying to overthrow the regime of Faustin-Archange Touadéra.

Thanks to the reinforcement of Rwandan soldiers and hundreds of Russian paramilitaries, the regular army has managed to retake from the rebels a good part of the two-thirds of the country that they had been controlling for several years.

Moscow officially recognizes the presence of only 1,135 “unarmed instructors,” but NGOs operating on the ground, as well as France and the UN, say some of them are men from Russia’s private security group Wagner. This military company, which operates in Syria, Sudan and Libya, is closely linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Moscow denies any link.

This recognition comes at a time of great tension between Mali and France. Mali, which sees in the reorganization of the French military apparatus in the Sahel a “mid-air abandonment” of its country, does not exclude using the services of the Wagner group. The French army plans a reduction of soldiers in the country, from more than 5,000 currently, to 2,500-3,000 by 2023.

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