23 août 2013

Bangui (Central African Republic): International blackout on mass killings and human rights violations

Killings of unarmed civilians in Boy-Rabe quarter on 21 and 22 August 2013 by heavily armed death squads

By Rebecca Tickle 

Between last Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 August, as we were running to Bangui M'Poko airport to catch our flight to Brazzaville out of developping hell, over 100 civilians were executed in Boy-Rabe in a pouring tropical rain. Panic-stricken mothers were seen running and dragging their children in the mud-swollen streets to seek asylum in neighboring areas of the town. The local Red-Cross is not in a position to make an account of the exact number of casualties, but people are trying hard to bring ends together for the number of deaths and wounded.

After a moment of intense machine-gun shooting within the Boy-Rabe area on Tuesday around 4 pm under heavy rain, practically 60% of Bangui was overwhelmed by dispersed Kalashnikov shooting. In Boeing near M'Poko airport, a student witnessed the shooting of a university math’s professor.

In Boy-Rabe, one of our friends was coldly shot down as he was standing with his wife in front of his house. We had met him on Tuesday morning just before leaving, and had promised to call him before our departure. In the rush, we had then forgotten...

Thursday evening Boy-Rabe was almost deserted by its inhabitants. Seleka loaded pick-ups were seen carrying fridges, televisions, furniture and other items under tarps into their neighboring strongholds and compounds. 

Electricity in Boy-Rabe was still disabled on Friday afternoon in the whole area as very scared inhabitants had started going back to their homes. 

Many people outside Boy-Rabe find it hard to get news from their relatives as the telephone network is more or less out of order, while heavily armed Seleka men, often non French and non Sango speakers, continue to monitor at gun-point each soul entering or going out of Boy-Rabe, in order to identify potential promoters of Bozizé and/or his armed front FROCCA aiming to the return to constitutional order (Front pour le Retour à l’Ordre Constitutionnel en Centrafrique). 

Provocation and unchanneled violence 

Whatever triggered this indiscriminate violence on innocent civilians, whatever provocation or increased presence of weapons in Boy-Rabe, this aggression and mass-looting fit of Christian households as well as of Muslim households should be firmly condemned by the international community. 

Simultaneously, any provocation by nostalgic admirers of the former dictator François Bozizé, who has never yet been officially condemned for the well-known atrocities he committed on his way to power in 2003 and during his reign, amongst which the murder of political disturbers (Charles Massi, Goungaye Wanfiyo, etc.) and systematic arbitrary detentions, should also be vehemently condemned, as the aim is just to turn Bangui and the country into a muddy blood-bath. End of May, an international mandate had been released by CAR authorities against François Bozizé accusing him of crimes against humanity and incentive to genocide. This action was apparently not pursued lately. 

What really happened in Boy-Rabe 2 days ago.... War crime? Crime against humanity? Disarmament efforts? Whatever. 

No mourning family can possibly accept “disarmament efforts” as a reason for the loss of their beloved ones. 

Total and unconditional condemnation of these crimes in Boy-Rabe is compulsory if we want to continue speaking of the existence of universal human rights and universal efforts for the respect of international law.

Peace-keeping efforts

Increased peace-keeping measures are massively requested for the protection of the people of Boy-Rabe and the whole of Bangui. Boy-Rabe has been a stronghold of civil resistance against oppression since the Bokassa era and has therefor often experienced indiscriminate shooting, extra-judicial killings and kidnappings. 

This is a general demand Bangui people are expressing, as peace-keeping efforts are felt by the population as inexistent in terms of efficiency. Congolese, Cameroonian, Gabonese FOMAC soldiers are seen observing at major crossroads with scarce patrolling. Chadian FOMAC soldiers are seen escorting the new President across the town in his official whereabouts and some patrolling as well. Constant streams of pick-ups loaded with Seleka dressed up men are what people are most afraid of. 

Effective control of these quads, seemingly mostly originating from northern Central African Republic, Chad and Sudan, looks totally impossible for the moment. 

Increasing hatred against Muslim civilians

Indiscriminate hatred against Muslims by the Christian population is also an issue which cannot be ignored when talking of peace-keeping efforts. 

About 15% of Centrafricans are Muslims, and many of their communities have been increasingly discriminated during the Bozizé regime. Most of the internal support Bozizé received in 2003 when he took over came from northern CAR communities, which he then despised once in power. The Muslim community, whether from the north or not, is now often accused, in a spirit of revenge, to be implicitly supporting the Seleka forces, whose violence is allegedly mainly focused on Christian communities. 

Insecurity including killings and mass-looting in Bangui had been slowly decreasing since last 24 March coup d'Etat when Bozizé was overthrown, although violence against civil population in the rest of the country is still far from being mastered. The issue of internally displaced populations is still dramatically acute. 

The events of last 21 and 22 August in Boy-Rabe are just the proof that no real solution has yet been found to alleviate the suffering of a profoundly wounded people, to halt massive weapon circulation and trafficking, and above all overall impunity. 

Who does what and why 

Who exactly is actually leading the country since 24 March 2013 is more than officially unclear. 

Whether the uncontrollability of violence in the country is deliberate or not, is not clear either.

But what we do know is that nobody is talking in the international media about what happened in Boy-Rabe on 21 and 22 August 2013. We only hear of "disarmament efforts". Nobody knows exactly how many people died during these "efforts" and how, whether children, woman or men. 

When the shooting stops, one just talks of a "back to normal" situation. 

The intolerable norm in Bangui and everywhere in the country. 

People in Bangui say that God has abandoned the Central African Republic.