The United Nations human rights chief this week warned the security and human rights situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) may be starting to deteriorate again after a series of incidents in the capital of Bangui as well as rural areas.
“While 2016 began on a positive note, with the successful holding of elections in February, recent events in Bangui and in several other parts of the country make me fear a re-escalation of violence in the coming months,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement.
“There is an urgent need to disarm armed groups – who remain far too powerful and retain the potential to reignite the conflict – as well as to restore State authority and rule of law and to ensure the security of all civilians,” he added.
He said tensions have been on the rise in Bangui since mid-June between armed elements and soldiers serving with the United Nations Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in Bangui’s Muslim PK5 neighbourhood.
Six armed men were killed and some 15 civilians were injured in clashes on June 20. On the same day, MINUSCA forces intervened to extract CAR and UN police officers from a Commissariat building surrounded by a hostile armed crowd. On June 24, a Senegalese UN peacekeeper was killed in Bangui by unidentified armed men.
A number of incidents have also taken place recently in regions where armed groups continue to exercise control, committing human rights violations and preying on the civilian population.
In all, clashes outside Bangui involving armed groups, including ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka, resulted in the killing of at least 17 people in June.
To achieve a sustainable peace and reconciliation, security and accountability must be improved, the justice system must be re-established and confidence in State institutions must be restored, Zeid stressed.
He also expressed his concern at the continuing human rights violations committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the country’s south-east, including large-scale killings, mutilations, abductions, sex slavery and forced recruitment of child soldiers.
He said he was also deeply concerned by credible and worrying allegations of human rights violations and abuses by members of the Ugandan army deployed to the CAR as part of the operation to counter the LRA.
During preliminary investigations, at least 18 women and girls said they were subjected to sexual violence and harassment by members of the Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF).
Zeid said his office has already approached the Ugandan authorities on allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, abduction and forced marriage and will continue to follow up this matter.