War crimes, but no genocide in C. Africa – UN report

UNITED NATIONS – War crimes and crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing of Muslims were committed in the Central African Republic but there was no genocide, a UN report said Thursday, January 8.

The 127-page report by a UN commission of inquiry said all sides committed human rights violations over the past two years including rape, murder, recruitment of child soldiers, torture and burning of homes.

"Thousands of people died as a result of the conflict" that exploded after the March 2013 coup that overthrew longtime leader Francois Bozize, said the report.

"Human rights violations and abuses were committed by all parties," it said.

The commission was unable to provide a casualty figure, but said estimates of between 3,000 and 6,000 dead "fail to capture the full magnitude of the killing that occurred."

The Muslim Seleka coalition of former leader Michel Djotodia and the anti-balaka militia that fought them "are also responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity," according to the report.

"Although the Commission cannot conclude that there was a genocide, ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population by the anti-balaka constitutes a crime against humanity," it said.

The commission of inquiry appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a year ago said there was no reason to assume that grave crimes including genocide will be averted in the future.

But it pointed to the deployment of French and African forces as well as UN peacekeepers as being "primarily responsible for the prevention of an even greater explosion of violence."

On a trip to Bangui in April last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the horrors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda could be repeated in the Central African Republic.

The UN Security Council in September dispatched a 12,000-strong UN peace force to take over from an African Union-led mission working to restore stability alongside French forces. 

The Central African Republic continues to be hit by waves of violence, although the capital remains calmer.

Fighting in the southeast of the country in late December left 18 dead while attacks around the central town of Bambari, the Seleka rebel stronghold, killed 20 people.

The weak authority of the government has allowed armed gangs to fester in many corners of the country, waging attacks and terrorizing civilians.

The International Criminal Court announced in September that it was investigating an "endless list" of atrocities committed in the Central African Republic.

To compile its report, the commission of inquiry interviewed 910 victims and witnesses, mostly in the Bangui region but also in the west and in neighboring Cameroon.

Cameroonian judge Bernard Acho Munu led the commission that included Mauritanian human rights official Fatima M'Baye and former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda. – Rappler.com