UN Peacekeepers failed to prevent massacres in CAR – Amnesty
Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to “carry out a thorough investigation into (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the UN peacekeeping troops’ response to a recent attack that killed as many as 100 civilians in a displaced persons camp in the Central African Republic.”
A report by the human rights organisation said it documented eyewitness accounts which showed that the “UN peacekeepers did not engage an attack by an armed group but instead retreated in an armoured vehicle to their central base, leaving thousands of civilians unprotected at the camp in Alindao on November 15,” the report also stated that MINUSCA “failed in its duty to protect the lives of more than 18,000 people residing at the site.”
The Catholic Church in Alindao one of the largest organisation providing refuge for thousands of civilians, both christians and Muslims, who have been victims of the over a decade old war between Muslim Seleka militia fighting to overthrow the government and institute an Islamic government and the Anti-Balaka “Christian” militia fighting to protect its villages from massacres by the Islamists.
On November 15, one of the Islamic Seleka militia, Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), “joined by many armed Muslim civilians from Alindao and surrounding villages,” the report said, attacked the catholic Church camping thousands of refugees, targeting and killing two catholic priests, Fr. Prospère Blaise Mada and Fr. Célestin Ngoumbango and “scores of civilians at the displaced persons camp in Alindao were massacred after the UN peacekeepers charged with protecting them failed to take action to fend off their armed attackers,” Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International said. “Women, children and vulnerable IDPs, the elderly, and people with disabilities. were killed en masse,” the Human rights organisation said.
Amnesty questioned the commitment of the UN troops to protect the refugees in the first place saying while the UN troops seemed to be “badly outnumbered by armed attackers, their actions—both before and during the attack—raise serious questions as to whether they lived up to their mandate to protect civilians.”
MINUSCA contingents consisting of Mauritanian peacekeepers, rather than take control of the area, “delegated much of their day-to-day duties to a small “security team” of anti-balaka fighters,” which basically “put the civilian population in great danger,” Joanne Mariner said.
Amnesty’s report further warned of such attacks against refugee camps in future. It cited the example of the on December 4 in when “UPC fighters reportedly attacked another IDP site run by the Catholic church in Ippy, resulting in the deaths of two children.” Also at this incident, the UN peace keepers “were present at the time, but failed to prevent the attack,” Amnesty said.
The Catholic Church in Central African Republic has consistently accused MUNISCA of complacency and failing to protect civilians. Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui repeated this criticism and echoed the allegations of Amnesty International saying MINUSCA supposedly came “in the name of the international community to offer us help, protection and safety,” rather, the Cardinal said, “we see that certain forces instead of protecting the people leave them to their plight. Civilians are being killed in Alindao and elsewhere. How else can what we have seen be explained, burned human remains, homes and churches? I ask for an international inquiry to be opened to find the truth of the massacres and let justice be done,” Nzapalainga said.
When the issue of the incompetence of the UN keeping force to protect civilians was raised in February, following these allegations, the UN released a report dismissing the accusations saying that “no evidence was found.”
The UN Security Council on Thursday, 20 December, still voted to renewed its peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic with a new mandate to “allows for the deployment of 11,650 military personnel and 2,080 police to be extended until November 15, 2019.”
Hassan John is West Africa editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos