Armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) must lay down their arms and engage in political dialogue, a UN expert said today, urging the international community to strengthen efforts to restore State authority and end impunity in the country.
“I vehemently condemn the obstinacy of the Coalition of Patriots for Change and other armed groups who continue to spread terror, insecurity and suffering among the civilian population and victims of violations and abuses,” said Yao Agbetse. the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (CAR).
At the conclusion of his ten-day official visit to CAR, Agbetse said he was dismayed by reports from residents in the town of Bria, capital of the Haute-Kotto prefecture, describing the ease with which armed groups connect to neighbouring Sudan.
The Independent expert said schools in the regions of Ouadda, Yalinga, and Sam-Ouandja, had remained closed for four years.
In the prefectures of Mbomou and Haute Kotto, the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance en Centrafrique (FPRC) have been responsible for numerous grave human rights violations, including sexual violence, particularly rape and sexual slavery, mostly of girls between the ages of 11-17. Mahamat Salleh, an FPRC leader based in Nzako, has been implicated in several cases of rape and other serious human rights abuses, Agbetse said.
Calling on armed groups to lay down their arms in the best interest of the Central African population, the UN expert urged these groups to engage in political dialogue and the peace and reconciliation process led by the Commission on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation (CVJRR).
Referring to the brutal, organised attack on the village of Boyo in December 2021, the expert said human rights violations committed by the CAR national army (FACA) and the internal security forces (FSI) and their auxiliaries were “unacceptable.”
Russian allies and the FACA had allegedly provided support and backing to the “Anti-Balaka” militia who committed atrocities in Boyo, including beheadings and sexual violence, and forced thousands of residents to flee.
“The seriousness of these facts requires appropriate responses from national authorities towards the victims,” Agbetse said. “I recommend that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) set up a more reactive warning system and regular joint operations with the FACA to prevent tragedies like the one in Boyo,” he said.
The UN expert also demanded that Russian allies refrain from obstructing collaboration and joint operations between FACA, FSI and UN peacekeepers assigned to MINUSCA.
“Russian allies must not prevent the deployment of MINUSCA protection operations and obstruct the investigation of human rights abuses and violations of International Humanitarian Law,” Agbetse said.
At the conclusion of his visit to CAR, Agbetse recommended that all allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law be systematically and thoroughly investigated by the Central African authorities.
“These investigations must be followed by concrete actions to ensure that the victims have access to justice,” he said. The expert said the establishment of a reparation fund was also fundamental to ensuring justice for victims.
He strongly recommended extraordinary judicial sessions to tackle the heavy caseload of sexual violence crimes linked to the conflict. Amicable settlements in cases of conflict-related sexual violence were unjust to victims, and must be stopped, Agbetse said.
The expert noted that several testimonies and reports indicated a lack of control and accountability within the state apparatus, including the judiciary, police and gendarmerie, and the civil service in general. He also called on Authorities to address the issue of hate speech and incitement to violence.
Agbetse called on the international community to strengthen its support to the CAR to ensure that the restoration of State authority is effective.